Such was my advice a couple weeks ago to recent and not-so-recent graduates. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with noise from all directions and sources, that’s much easier said than done. It’s imperative, I believe, that we try.
Sue Monk Kidd, the author of “The Secret Life of Bees,” is best known for her fiction, but she has written some wonderful books on spirituality/religion. My favorite is “When the Heart Waits.” It’s my favorite for no other reason than for her line, “in stillness there is healing.”
Life can be overwhelming. The demands placed on us by family, work and other commitments can be too much. There are times when we just need to stop what we are doing, take deep breaths, and be still.
Speaking for myself, I find that in moments of stillness I get answers. When I go to a place of stillness I can gather myself and my thoughts; I ready myself for listening. It’s ironic, but it is in silence that I hear volumes.
While I do not attend Mass or church, I often find myself sitting alone in churches or chapels. This past Sunday evening, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by things in my life (and in my head and heart), I went to a nearby church to sit in stillness.
I plopped myself in the last row of pews and just sat. The silence was deafening. I heard absolutely no sounds or noise from outside. It was as if I was in a soundproof booth. In some respects, it was eerie. In other ways, it was soothing. I sat in stillness.
As the minutes passed by, I felt more and more at peace. The anxiety I felt earlier began to lift away. The longer I stayed seated in stillness the more it disappeared. I truly felt as if a burden was being lifted; I felt lighter and more relaxed. And all I was doing was simply sitting in stillness.
One doesn’t always have to be sitting in stillness to benefit from it. I also enjoy it during early morning and late evening walks with my dog. I especially enjoy it if the setting is a park that affords a clear view of a sunrise or a sunset. One can also walk in stillness, as well as stand in stillness.
It will surely strike some of you as odd, but I especially enjoy the solitude and stillness of a cemetery. Growing up, we had a cemetery in our back yard. It never bothered me or creeped me out. It was always just there; no big deal.
I recall walks I made through that cemetery and others with my Grandpa Worman. I learned lots about the people who were buried there. It was a history lesson of sorts. I enjoyed those walks, and I enjoy the ones I still take. I have never felt uncomfortable or ill at ease in a cemetery.
Several years ago I took a 31/2-month road trip with my dog. I can’t begin to tell you the number of cemeteries we walked through during that time. Some were along two-lane highways or paved country roads. Others were in the middle of nowhere!
But they all had one thing in common. All of them possessed a tranquility and a solemnity that moved me. If you have ever been to Arlington National Cemetery than you know what I mean. The stillness speaks volumes.
I have logged many miles behind the wheel over the past 30 years or so. And I always make a conscious effort to spend some of that time driving in silence. No radio. No stereo. Just silence. I remember some years ago going three full days without turning on the radio or the stereo. There was no need to do so. The stillness of the Wyoming and Montana landscape spoke to me.
There are many ways to enjoy stillness. There are many places where we can find it, if we make the effort to do so. Speaking from my own experience, it is well worth doing. Sue Monk Kidd writes that “stillness can be the prayer that transforms us.” I agree.
Be transformed. Enjoy stillness.