When Time Stands Still
There are moments when time stands still.
They may be captured in a photograph, or a scene from a movie, or in a book or a song.
We may remember when all the pieces of life seemed to fall into place and time stood still for us. I remember the time I met her, or saw that film for the first time. Some of us remember feelings or thoughts or where we were.
Somehow, out of the blue, a moment happens which seems to change everything. We were headed in one direction and, suddenly, we realized we were going somewhere else entirely.
We might look back and remember how time stands still and everything becomes different. It is more of a challenge for us to see when it will happen in the future.
Some of us remember these moments with regret about what we might have missed. We may experience when time stands still as an inconvenience, disturbing our comfort and disrupting our plans and schedules.
It can be easy for us to allow ourselves to be swept along, carried by other people’s expectations. We do not want to rock the boat, to cause any trouble.
The fact is these moments when time stands still are powerful gifts to us.
Some of us recognize the value of these moments. We appreciate how the moments when time stands still for us capture our attention and spark our imagination. We might even look for ways to become more open to these moments, to build them into our lives.
Some of us pay attention to time management. We want to use it as effectively as we can and make each second count.
Every one of us has the same amount of time. None of us has saved even a second to carry over to tomorrow.
Managing Time, or Time Managing Us?
There are moments of awareness when time stands still for us. The ways we usually experience time seem to melt away. Time appears not to follow the rules we assume we can impose on it in our everyday lives. It overflows its banks, or evaporates, or boils.
Time is infused with spiritual life and escapes our expectations.
Remembering can transport us through time into spiritual life. We visit new places, read new books, listen to new stories and transcend into sacred time.
There are people who help me experience sacred time, help me recognize spiritual life. We share our stories, listening and asking questions, and we laugh and cry together. The time we spend together is different from other time. Sacred time swirls around us. Spiritual life surrounds us and fills us.
As we listen deeply, the everyday life around us fades into the background. Distractions disappear from view. Spiritual life draws us into calm, centered awareness. Each moment holds spiritual truths for us to discover and explore. Taking time to listen, we become open to the wisdom all around us.
We sit in sacred space, immersed in sacred time. Taking time for stillness, we have what we need to pay attention and reflect.
Spiritual life opens our eyes and hearts to appreciate sacred space and time. We are open to spiritual life and awake to sacred time. Each moment is an opportunity for us to listen to ourselves and to each other.
Looking at a photograph of someone we love reminds us of this sacred time. We see the face we recognize and remember. Time stands still.
Spiritual life transports us through space and time and sparks our contemplation. We practice being open to the deep truths in which we live our lives.
Taking Time for Stillness
This spring could be an opportunity for us to begin appreciating when time stands still.
Our first step is to add listening to sacred stillness to our calendars. If beginning a practice of contemplative listening is important to us, we need to plan the same way we would for any other commitment.
Setting a regular time for contemplative listening will help us develop a practice.
We also need to decide on a regular place to practice. Committing to a time and place will help us overcome many potential obstacles.
We go to the place we have chosen at the time we want to begin taking time for stillness. This practice is not about squeezing every bit of value we can from this time. We practice being open to spiritual life in the sacred stillness within us and all around us.
This is not a scheduled nap time, though we will find ourselves relaxing and resting. We listen to what stillness has to tell us.
The sacred stillness around us and within us draws us in and embraces us.
Sitting comfortably, closing our eyes and breathing deeply, we begin to listen. We listen and time stands still.
Stillness Shapes Us
Our practice of taking time to listen to sacred stillness has lessons to teach us. We will learn to become more attentive listeners, and we will learn lessons about our own true selves.
Other people may notice how our practice is changing us before we do. Developing a new practice can often feel like a struggle as we focus on the mechanics of what we are trying to do. The people around us will appreciate we have become more patient, or better listeners.
Over time we will recognize ourselves taking time for stillness more often as our practice shapes us.
We will come to appreciate how taking time for stillness helps us organize and use our time more wisely. Our priorities and values become more clear to us, and we put them into practice in our everyday lives.
Eventually we learn time is a tool for us to use in living well. We are not intended to simply react to the demands time places on us, but to invest our time wisely.
When time stands still it is invitation to pay attention.
How will we be open when time stands still today?
When do we plan to take time for stillness to shape us this week?
[Image by Manoela Padilh]
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 email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.