I am not naturally inclined toward being still. If I am truly honest about my nature, motion and action are central to my daily living and to the trajectory of my personal and professional growth. I have been described across my life as a hard worker, a person who acts on my words, someone for whom no grass grows beneath my feet. Ideas need to be accompanied by an action plan in order for me to take them seriously, and if I like the idea but don’t see an action plan, I generally take it upon myself to set one in motion, for better or for worse. I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. I will take risk over regret any day. Five hours of sleep is plenty for me.
Have I mentioned, I am not naturally inclined to be still?
So, when I reflect on being still…which has now become a central component of my daily life and spiritual practice…it is from this place of understanding my own nature and reclaiming the value of stillness within it.
I set up my first meditation space in a tiny room in my tiny house. I was in the midst of major life transition…relationship, career, geography. I craved stillness and didn’t know how to find it. So, of course, my action plan was to redecorate a room as a meditation space in the hope that stillness would appear. The Universe is benevolent and God does meet us exactly where we are at, so I did find moments of stillness in that small, freshly painted space, even if they were only a few minutes long. I also began to do other painting…watercolor…in that space and realized this also had a centering effect on my spirit if I could let go of producing a product and simply lose my thoughts in the process. Stillness and action could be an intricate dance, I was learning. The stillness of that space kept me centered during that particular time of life transition, and I established a similar space in a new city on the other side of that transition in hopes that stillness would follow me. I hadn’t yet claimed stillness as my own, though.
New practices need to be nurtured in order to survive. In subsequent years, the intensity of my professional and personal life created other patterns of action, and my experiences of stillness were relegated to a few moments here and there when I chose to find them or as I would say, “when I could find the time.” I never regretted finding the time to be still when I did, though. But, action was garnering me more accolades, frankly, so my busy nature thrived. But then, something changed.
When I look back on what I have written in this blog, I recognize that I began to deliberately carve out time for being still not in response to something external, but after my simple but decidedly real encounter with God as always present in my life. I wanted stillness to become aware of that Presence. Learning to be still happened slowly and deliberately, a response to my desire to be present in my daily reality, to experience the Presence of God in my daily reality, in an intentional and mindful way. I have allowed myself the freedom to experiment with being still…solitary stillness, walking meditation, artistic exploration, walking the labyrinth, visual meditation, centering prayer, and yes…even blogging my spiritual journey. I admittedly find it more challenging to be still in a communal setting because of my natural level of distraction, but I am experimenting with that, too. Being still with another (or others) has its own gift of communal presence.
Ironically, the more intention I put into being still, the more time presents itself for stillness. While this makes no logical sense, I accept it as truth in a different way. I have come to know that being still is an active state, not a passive one. It is growth producing and life giving.
Yesterday, I came across this brief meditation from Richard Rohr in my daily email, written as an introduction to centering prayer. It spoke to me in its simplicity and truth and I thought it summed up well the inner knowledge I have gained about being still. If you are reading this and have not practiced a contemplative path, or if you are experimenting with actively embracing the stillness of being, maybe this is a good start:
When we’re doing life right, it means nothing more than it is right now, because God is always in this moment in an accepting and non-blaming way. When we are able to experience that, taste it, and enjoy it, we don’t need to hold on to it nor are we afraid to let go of it. The next moment will have its own taste and enjoyment.
Because our moments are not tasted—or full—or real—or in the Presence—we are never fulfilled and there is never enough. We then create artificial fullness and distractions and try to pass time or empty time with that. Perhaps this quote from Psalm 46:10 can be your entranceway into the now, if you slow down in this way:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Adapted from Everything Belongs:
The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, pp. 60-62