As soon as I began asking myself this question, one answer came to me, but I wasn’t brave enough to write about it.
Silence. Silence is the place I need to stay, yet everything in me wants to flee into my thoughts.
How could I admit that to you when I write a contemplative blog and teach about centering prayer and the value of silence and solitude?
Often when I try to pray my brain won’t quit thinking. I face the same problem when I want to sleep. I try focusing on my breath, but just when I begin to feel sleepy, I can’t maintain my focus and slip back into thinking again.
“There’s a skittishness in me when it comes to opening to silence. I’m nervous about something, but I don’t know what,” I told my spiritual director.
She gave me space to welcome my skittishness and God’s presence with me there. The image that came to mind was that my skittishness was like a cat and God was sitting with it, completely relaxed and stroking it. The cat was loving it, her head pushing up against God’s hand.
I felt myself relax as I held that picture and knew I didn’t have to figure out what I was skittish about. It was enough to name it and be with God in it, and then I realized–
“This is prayer!” I said to my director. The very thing I desired and could not do, I entered into simply by naming my reality and being with God in it.
We paused there to take that in.
“How do you see your skittishness now?” my director asked.
“As something to be honoured.”
She waited for me to continue.
“At first, I saw it as something to get rid of, but it’s kind of like the dead logs on the forest floor. In one part of the book The Overstory, a botany professor said that they need to clear the forest floor to help the trees grow. But the botanists that had come to deeply love the forest and listen to the trees knew that a decomposing log gives life to the forest. It’s as if my skittishness is something in me decomposing and giving life to me. Just as I never see that slow work in the forest, I may not see it in myself. But eventually, I will see the results of it.”
So I sat this morning in silence, pressing my head against God’s hand while my mind flitted here and there, decomposing something or other.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
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My friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator Brent Unrau wrote, “Had a rough patch on Sunday mood-wise until I stumbled upon this light-infused leaf of awe, wonder and still calm. Somehow this little atriplex copper plume leaf bathed in late afternoon sun ushered me into the healing balm of fall. Please take some time to slow yourself down and drink in the veins, the colour, the mood of this leaf, and see how it affects your heart.”
Thank you, Brent!