I grew up in a tradition that didn’t value the contemplative. It was rather stoic and rigid when it came to our practices. We sang songs in church, had quiet times where we read the Bible, and listened to lectures in a formal setting. This was about the extent of our experience except for study classes where very little questioning was allowed. it was essentially another lecture where we answered guided question meant to lead us toward an objective.
When I began to deconstruct, I became more open to practices from other traditions. I discovered that yoga and meditation helped me, even though I didn’t practice them regularly. More than anything I was relieved to discover that they didn’t take me down a dangerous path or lead me to destruction like I was warned. The “be careful” messaging never was that specific — mainly, because none of those people knew for sure I was doing something wrong. They just knew it wasn’t their practice so it was scary to them.
Exploring and then not sliding down a slippery slope has opened me up to other practices. One of the best things I have discovered is Centering Prayer. As with other things, I don’t practice it regularly, but I have found it extremely helpful. I’m going to try to explain it as best I can.
In Centering prayer, the most important part is to remove all expectation. We are not asking for anything and we are not expecting anything. There is nothing to say or do – essentially it is just being present and letting all thoughts go without judgement. To help, the basic practice is to use a word when your mind wanders or thoughts come to you. I use the word stillness.
I use stillness because it is meaningful to me. I remember how restlessness used to be such a part of my existence. I couldn’t sit still for anything. Through some shadow work and some new practices, I have been able to become more present and authentic which allows me to enjoy the benefits of stillness. It truly has opened up a new world to me.
Several years ago, stillness sounded like prison. Today, it sounds like heaven.
Think about the difference you might feel between walking through the woods / timber to complete a trail walk vs sitting on a log among the trees being still and letting nature speak to you without expectation. There are benefits to walking, but there is a whole new world that opens up when we can embrace this kind of solitude occasionally.
It is said, that a rolling stone doesn’t gather moss. Think about that thought in light of doing and stillness. When we are still, “things” are better able to come to us–to find us–and, in essence, to stick to us. I used to be so afraid of those things that might come, so I kept moving. Now I know that I have nothing to fear, so I experience stillness and wait for the good stuff. It is so peaceful and deep and rewarding to be still and let the good stuff find me!
As Laura mentioned recently, it’s important to comprehend the difference between isolation and solitude! I’ll save that discussion for another time, but suffice to say that I am enjoying a much deeper thriving by going inside and experiencing the practice of stillness than I ever experienced from the orchestrated activity of my old life.
Check out Fr. Keating for some instruction on centering prayer and try it for yourself.
Embrace the stillness!
Be where you are, be who you are,