As an extrovert who has literally fled from a silent retreat, there is perhaps a deep irony that lately I am reflecting on silent practices. Sometimes the things that appear the hardest can draw you into a place of curiosity. In our “always doing, always going, always being” culture, an attempt at stillness and contemplation can seem subversive. What is your worth if you are not achieving something in every moment? Who are we when we are stripped of our labels that we wear to work, school, and in our relationships?
Perhaps this is why the practice of Sabbath, a day of rest, is starting to pop up into people’s awareness again. It is a powerful spiritual reset of our ways of being and there seems precious little room for it in daily life if we don’t set it as an intention. Silent practices and days of rest can look like many things but often contain one of three states: awareness, concentration or surrender. These three portals can open us up to the Holy and often one is a bit easier for us than another.
Awareness practices, like vipassana or breath-based meditation, allow silence to arrive through training our awareness to our bodies and placing our chattering mind into the observer perspective. Concentration practices, such as watching waves or using mantras, give our attention a single point to focus on which can allow the rest of our consciousness to still and rest. Surrender practices, such as contemplative prayer and meditation, allows us to empty our consciousness and practice not following any thoughts or sensations. All three can overlap, but in this busy season try to find one that you practice, even once a week for 10 minutes, and see what it does to your connection to Spirit, and your ability to be present to your life.
As for me, while I am a long way from another silent retreat, I am going to increase my practices and see if any of you have techniques that might be helpful to try.
In peace and stillness,