Is Anyone Listening?
There are times when I wonder whether anyone is listening, even me.
Some people spend time each day in a contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness. There are people who have been practicing every day for years.
We believe in the power of listening and the sacredness of stillness.
Even those of us who believe ask, at times, whether anyone is listening.
We practice listening to stillness. Sacred stillness offers to give us rest and refresh us. Sometimes we feel restored, but we thirst for more.
Sacred stillness is so limitless, so far beyond our ability to comprehend. We may by overwhelmed by the immensity of what we are trying to do.
How can it even be possible to listen to sacred stillness? Do we actually think we can understand what sacred stillness has to say to us? Is it really true? Is anyone listening?
We struggle to open ourselves to the deep sacred truth all around us and within us. It feels like we are turning ourselves inside out to find and connect to spiritual life. We are stretching beyond what we imagined were our limitations. Why are we going to such lengths for something which seems so far beyond us?
If there is anyone listening, why are they so remote, so difficult to know?
We pause to listen to sacred stillness, trusting there is someone in the stillness listening to us. Sometimes it is easy for us to be confident there is someone there. Other times it is like trying to sleep during a long, restless night. We toss and turn, looking for a way to be comfortable.
If only we can keep our eyes closed long enough to find the rest we seek.
Over time the stillness slowly enfolds us in its sacred embrace.
Who Is Listening?
We are listening for truth in sacred stillness without necessarily understanding why. We may be confident, usually, there is sacred depth all around us and within us.
How do we know who waits for us in the stillness? It is like we are standing in the mouth of a cave, unable to see into the dark interior.
Even if we could see who was waiting for us, would we recognize them?
How well do we know them? Have we even seen them before?
We may become familiar with spiritual life in some ways when we run into something new. It can feel like spiritual life has shown us one face and then transformed into someone else.
Like getting to know anyone, our relationship to spiritual life develops over time. We may find deeper intimacy, or might decide to spend some time away for a while.
The difficulties comes when we feel spiritual life may have abandoned us altogether.
Practices or experiences we have come to depend on no longer bring us satisfaction. It feels like we have begun a relationship with spiritual life and it has moved away from us.
Is there anyone listening? Anyone at all?
Like any strong relationship, the ways we connect with spiritual life are not based on mechanics. We may believe we can achieve certain results if we take particular actions. Our relationship to spiritual life, though, is not something we control. It is not as if our actions will coerce spiritual life into giving us particular results.
Our relationship is more intimate than that.
It can be like learning to ride a bicycle. Training wheels help us learn, but sooner or later the time comes to remove them. We may feel afraid or uncomfortable, but it is the only way we really learn to ride.
Can We Know Who Is Listening?
We want to be certain, to know. Having certainty before we try something is how we protect ourselves. We like to have things all sorted out before we begin doing anything.
Real relationships are more than acting out our certainties.
We cannot truly know outside a real, working relationship.
It is impossible to know whether there is anyone out there until we go and look, and listen. All the advance planning and thinking things through we can do does not take the place of experience.
We may find it less risky to be certain. There may be less risk, but is that a real relationship?
We will never really know whether there is anyone out there until we go and see.
Spiritual life draws us more and more deeply into relationship. It is not about intellectual certainty or our emotional comfort zones. It is only as we leave those behind our relationship becomes real.
Spiritual life gradually peels away our assumptions and expectations. Like any other relationship, we learn to let go of what we thought we knew. We open ourselves to what is.
Listening to sacred stillness is a step in the direction of spiritual life.
We listen whether we hear anything or not, whether we think there is anyone out there or not. As we listen we begin to recognize who is listening. It may not be certainty, but we grow into intimacy.
We begin to know in our hearts as well as our heads.
Recognizing Who is Listening
Listening to sacred stillness helps us recognize who is there.
Spiritual life draws us into deeper intimate relationship. As we listen, letting go of our preconceptions, we begin to see more clearly.
It is not someone out there, far away, after all.
Spiritual life draws us into relationship with itself, all around us and within us. We are not concerned about whether someone, anyone out there is listening to us. Our question is whether anyone in here is listening.
The deep wisdom of sacred stillness runs through us. It fills us and pours out to fill the rest of the world.
We learn to listen without assumptions or expectations, opening ourselves. As we listen we are drawn more deeply into relationship.
The sacred stillness reminds us of all we have to experience.
We leave the training wheels behind and begin really riding.
How will we recognize who is listening in sacred stillness today?
When will we begin to open ourselves to sacred stillness this week?
[Image by wanderinghome]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.