After viewing the Academy Awards this year, I decided to watch The Sound of Metal. It’s about a man named Ruben, a drummer in the world of heavy metal who loses his hearing. He goes to live in a deaf community and is mentored by a man named Joe. Joe tells him that each day he must go into a room and try to sit quietly. If he can’t do that, he can write his thoughts on a pad of paper. The goal is to get to a point where he is able to sit quietly. Joe says,
“But for me, those moments of stillness: that place, that’s the kingdom of God. And that place will never abandon you.”
I remember my first silent retreat at a catholic retreat center. I felt the same way Ruben does in the film. I spent the whole weekend pacing and writing all of my thoughts in a letter to my friend. Now it’s my favorite spiritual practice! I talk more about this here.
Why is it so hard for us to sit still?
For some of us, we were raised in a family that never sat still. My mom was the energizer bunny, and if she wasn’t at work, she was cleaning the house or working in the garden. Even in her later years, if she was sitting, she was beading jewelry, painting, or doing cross stitch. I can’t remember her ever holding still for long.
For some of us, it’s the fear of being alone. We are so connected to our devices it is easy not to deal with the “truth” that surfaces when one is quiet. And yet, this is exactly what the spiritual practice of sitting still does for us — it brings us face to face with ourselves and hopefully with the loving gaze of the divine.
This is best described in a quote by Parker Palmer:
“The human soul doesn’t want to be fixed, it simply wants to be seen and heard. The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient and shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.”
We can’t heal our soul if we are not giving it the time it needs to surface.
This spiritual discipline comes from all world religions. Here is a small sampling:
Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity”
“Your duty is to be and not to be this or that. ‘I am that I am’ sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in the words ‘Be still’.
― Ramana Maharshi
Silence is not for its own sake. The silence we seek is the silence that does not sin the sin of eternal agitation. It is a silence meant to help us—once healed of our anger, finally harmonious and serene—see that the world around us is a graceful and peaceful place.
― Joan Chittister
So, give yourself the gift of time. Try this: Set a timer for ten minutes and let your breathing slow and your mind wander. Have no agenda. See if doing this for three days helps you see things more clearly and feel more grounded. Get to know your soul, it may have many deep, painful, healing things it needs to reveal to you.
(I’ll attach a guided meditation that might help. When I have trouble quieting my mind, I often start with a guided meditation).
You can work your way up to twenty minutes or try it at various times during the day. I’d love to hear how practicing sitting still changes your life. What practices of silence do you enjoy?
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