Discerning Guidance in the Stillness
What is guidance and why would we listen to stillness to find it? How are we discerning guidance in stillness?
We find looking for knowledge or information less challenging than seeking guidance. Our culture seems to value being informed and knowing things more than discerning guidance.
Some of us assume we need to grow before we can discern well. We like to believe experience automatically helps us find guidance.
We might try discerning guidance from other people. Sometimes we read books written by people we believe are, or were, wise. Some of us attend workshops and conferences with people we think are wise. We may listen to sermons or other talks we hope will help us discern.
It might take a long time before we appreciate whether another person can guide us. We may experience something which seems wise at first, but wears off over time.
Most of us have difficulty appreciating whether we ourselves are becoming wise. It is a challenge for us to be objective about how wise we are in ourselves.
How do we gain wisdom? Where do we go to find and appreciate it? When do we know whether we are discerning wise guidance?
Can we sort out whether we are being wise or foolish while there is still enough time to make a difference?
The way I seek guidance most often is listening to sacred stillness.
It may seem ironic to try to discern guidance in stillness. In my experience discerning what is wise is less about analyzing options and more about reflecting. It is a more contemplative pursuit than gaining information.
I am learning how stillness is wisdom’s natural habitat. Wisdom lives in stillness, so we go there to seek it.
Where Guidance Lives
While guidance may live in stillness, it is not its only home. We can find wisdom in many situations, if we take time to seek it.
It is not because guidance can only live or grow or thrive under certain protected conditions. Loud noises or bright lights or rapid movement do not scare it away or endanger it.
We find wisdom in stillness because we are able to listen and pay attention when we are still.
Stillness is not necessarily a particularly fertile environment for guidance. It is not as if stillness is the only soil with the proper acidity for producing wisdom.
We try to discern guidance in stillness because when we are still we can recognize and appreciate what it has to tell us. Stillness frees us from distractions which make it more difficult for us to listen.
We are better able to recognize and explore wise guidance when we take time to listen to sacred stillness. Wisdom is always there, waiting for us, but it is often drowned out.
We do not listen the way we would to someone reading or telling a story. It is not about remembering every word or even becoming caught up in the narrative.
Our practice is not about squeezing every drop of insight from the world around us. We are not trying to organize and categorize or even remember wisdom.
Guidance is not something for us to earn or acquire. We are not hoping to amass a collection of wise sayings.
Wisdom is not about memorizing answers so we can pass our next test. Our practice is not about getting other people to appreciate how wise we are becoming. There is no checklist or wisdom hall of fame we are hoping to complete.
We discern guidance in stillness and it flows into and through us.
Discerning Guidance in Sacred Stillness
Guidance can be a challenge to discern even as we practice listening to sacred stillness.
Our practice is not about flipping a switch which finds and assesses guidance for us.
We often recognize wisdom in some of the most unexpected places.
More and more we find it as we reflect on what we have already experienced. Our search for wisdom is not about adding to our store of facts or experience, but about the time we spend in stillness.
Most of us receive more than enough information each day. We do not find guidance in accumulating even more. It comes from how we listen, how we respond to what we hear.
Guidance is not about knowing more or experiencing more. It becomes our own as we put it into practice.
We demonstrate we have gained and accepted wisdom, it has become ours, when it changes how we live. We know we are discerning guidance when wisdom shapes our behavior.
Guidance we do not put into practice is no more than a good idea. We know we have found wisdom when we appreciate how it helps us live differently.
We listen to sacred stillness and discern guidance in its depths.
As We Continue Discerning Guidance
We do not need more ideas, more emotional experiences, more strength to discern guidance. Sometimes new stimulation makes wisdom more difficult for us to recognize.
I have come to appreciate guidance not as something we pursue, but part of the fabric of our world. We are not on a quest to discover something hidden somewhere. What we seek is all around us and within us.
When we need guidance it can help us to step out of our regular routine. Sometimes I go to the beach or the mountains or the woods. Sometimes it helps to take time in the middle of everyday life and listen for guidance.
Wisdom is not a wild animal to be found and put into a cage. We discern guidance and listen to what it has to tell us.
As we take time to stop and listen we find guidance within ourselves and in the world around us. It is not limited to blinding flashes of insight. It comes to us one drop at a time, setting our hearts on fire.
Where will we go to begin discerning guidance in stillness today?
How will we recognize when we are discerning guidance in the stillness within us this week?
[Image by -Marlith-]
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.