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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Being still

Be still and know that I am God

Since last spring, I have implemented a regular practice of meditation and silent prayer. The main focus of this practice is to simply be silent and still.

Silence and stillness is a tricky thing. In stillness and silence, any number of thoughts and feelings might arise. Ideally, when one is meditating, all attention is focussed on breath. This is also called "mindfulness." When one is mindful of nothing but one's own breathing, then there is a deep sense of stillness, silence, and peace.

This is the ideal.

As I have engage in a regular practice of stillness, I quite naturally want to become better or more skilled at the practice. I want there to be less noise from my heart and mind. I want to enter into that sense of peace.

Many spiritual practices are like this. We tend to look at "spiritual growth" in terms of mastery: are we mastering the our particular moral or spiritual skill/art/practice? We tend to be critics of ourselves, measuring ourselves by some standard that we hope to achieve.

James Finley, a spiritual teacher, says that good meditative practices tend to be messy. This is a wise approach.

The act of stillness, silent prayer, or meditation is not about achieving some state of peace. It is not in any way about becoming better. It is an end in itself. It is a practice of grace. As a practice of grace, the point is not to "grow" or "achieve." The point is to just be. Just as I am.

When grace is the foundation, then we can embrace everything that we experience during stillness. If we feel distracted, then we can become aware of our distracted heart/mind in a gracious way. If we are deeply hurt by others, then we can become aware of our pain in a gracious way. If our soul is restless, then we can become aware of our feeling of restlessness in a gracious way. If our minds are busy and excited, then we can become aware of this positive buzz in a gracious way.

This practice of grace is a "letting be." Whoever we are is okay. We become grounded in something that is deeper than merely the rising and falling of our thoughts and feelings. Whatever it is that we are "grounded in" is mysterious. It isn't something that we can define or ever capture. From the perspective of the Christian tradition, this is the sense of "Be still and know that I am God."

By letting ourselves be, just as we are, we become less clingy to life. We become less controlling of life. We realize how much is out of our control, and how necessary it is to extend grace in the same way that we have experienced grace.

The practice of stillness, silence, and meditation is about honestly engaging the feelings and thoughts that channel through us. We develop awareness of who we are and surrender ourselves into grace.

1 comment:

chris van allsburg said...

Jon,
Excellent. I don't do this much, but when I have--what a great benefit. Do you have a copy of Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline? Chef recommends!