How Stillness is Expressed Spiritually
The Psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God”. This suggests that if we are able to find that place of stillness, we also find God. 19th century American poet and playwright, William Wadsworth Longfellow, explored this notion in a monologue delivered by one of his characters in his play, The New England Tragedies. Based on the persecution of 17th century Quakers, one scene in the play has several Quakers discussing their immanent incarceration and execution. The only female in the room is a character called Edith, who proceeds to remind her colleagues of their spiritual obligation at this juncture.
“Let us then labour for an inward stillness, an inward stillness and an inner healing. That perfect silence, where the lips and the heart are still, and we no longer entertain our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions.
And God alone speaks in us, and we wait in singleness of heart, that we may know His will, and in the silence of our spirits that we may do His will, and do that only.”
Longfellow suggests that in the place of stillness we only hear one voice, what I call the Still Small Voice, or what he calls God. He also explains that stillness is possible if we can have ‘singleness of heart’ and if we can ‘silence our spirits’. Singleness of heart is aligned to The Sermon on the Mount scripture which reads, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It can be deduced that the nature of what we treasure causes a variety of outcomes, that ranges from suffering to stillness. What is important in Longfellow’s quote is the idea that we have a choice about what we value and therefore what we experience.
Typically, religious traditions encourage people to identify and align with spiritual values in preference to material or illusory values. For example, in The Sermon on the Mount you are encouraged to ‘seek first (value most) the kingdom of God’. The kingdom represents a set of spiritual values, which the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans explains as being ‘peace, righteousness (justice) and joy…’. This is in contrast to values that The Sermon said could be corrupted by ‘moths and rust’ and that were unsustainable.
Unsustainable values arise from the wants and desires that emerge from our formative programming, which typically establishes a personal belief of scarcity. These are the ‘spirits’ that Longfellow talks about, those things that bring momentum to how we spend our resources (time, talent and money). Because we believe that we are loveless or unloveable, or that we are powerless and a victim, or that we can never ‘get ahead’, or never have what we want materially, we become fixated on doing what we can to either deny their existence (addictions and avoidance behaviours), do what we can to survive, or do what we can to rise above these things.
Being loveless/unloveable you might avoid relationships completely resulting in loneliness. Or you might struggle to stay in relationship suffering serial divorce losses. You might even stay in a relationship that destroys your soul because your belief that you are unloveable tricks you into believing that no one else would want you. Being a victim you allow others to take advantage of you, abuse or bully you. It may even lead to you becoming a bully. You end up suffering constantly at the hands of others, as if you have no control over what happens.
Choosing sustainable values means that what you desire would inspire you to choose peace over power, joy over possessions and service (righteousness) over popularity. If you valued peace, then forgiveness would be your primary function. If you valued joy, there would be a commitment to a noble purpose. If you valued service your attention expands beyond you, to include humanity and the planet. Aligning with these values reflects your desire for stillness, the incorruptible treasure. This is how stillness is expressed spiritually. To make the transition from unsustainable values to sustainable values, requires you firstly to become aware of what it is that you desire (value) most and what inspires that, what is the ‘spirit’ that keeps feeding those values.
Secondly you develop an awareness of the sort of values that would be more serving, that would result in stillness. The third step is to become pragmatically lazy. In other words, instead of trying to fix or actively change things you have a daily accountability about how still your day has been and how the answer to that has served or not served you. It is this awareness of how you have chosen to expend your energy (and its associated resources) that is the catalyst for change. The more aware you are, the more you will make hundreds of choices throughout a day that unconsciously result in stillness.
When you participate in the Enhances Awareness Program, as the name suggests you experience ‘enhanced awareness’ which as discussed in the blog creates the stage for stillness. To find out more about how you can participate in the program, talk to one of our mentors today.
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