I continue here with my pervious postings on personal patterns. The second axiom I mentioned I repeat here.
In an external world of increasing noise creating an internal world of increasing quiet may be one of the premium patterns we need to learn.
Quiet is a rare commodity. You can’t buy it, borrow it, or use someone else’s, you have to cultivate it. I have asked pastor after pastor and spiritual formation specialists on church staffs but I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to this question, “What does it mean to “be still and know that I am God?” How do we actually do the “be still” thing?
Most people I ask have honestly raise their hands in surrender, shrugged their shoulders in frustration or quickly admitted they weren’t really sure. Upon following up with further conversation what seems obvious to me and them is we have not done a very good job understanding stillness and quiet, how valuable it is, and how to cultivate it in our lives.
For most of my 20 years of pastoral ministry I knew very very little about cultivating a quiet center. It wasn’t until the last 5 years or so that I have really come to a place of consistent practice in cultivating interior silence. The overflow of this practice impacts everything in my life…and that isn’t hyperbole, I mean everything.
The mentor that has done the most for me in this is Father Frank Stroud, a Jesuit Priest at Fordham University in New York. My time with him the last several years both at Fordham and off the continent have deeply shaped my current practice. His resourcing me with Anthony DeMello’s work has literally changed my entire spiritual formation practice. (Stroud is responsible for taking up Anthony’s mantel. Tony died unexpectedly at Fordham when we was visiting from India. Father Stroud took it upon himself to publish posthumously notes, lectures and seminars Tony had been doing all over the world.)
Father Thomas Keating is another, who through his Centering Prayer teaching over the last 70 years has made an enormous contribution to balancing our cognitive-heavy textual addiction with a strong emphasis on quiet non verbal centering. His invitation and emphasis has been to encourage us to enter into the places Jesus did when he went away to the desert or the mountains. Those quiet places provided the horsepower Jesus drew on that enabled him to say he would only do that which he saw the Father doing.
For many of us who are deeply shaped by Western Protestant spirituality to tap other strands of teaching in our rich and variegated Christian tradition seems a bit threatening. And I understand those feelings because I too have had them. But allow me to remind you, Western Protestantism is the new kid on the block. That is neither indictment nor celebration merely the statement of a chronological fact. It is that fact which should enable us to realize brothers and sisters in other strands of our very own tradition can provide us with potential patterns and practices that are deeply transformative and ministry altering.
I understand the resistance to exploring the new. But I also realize the freedom and joy that comes from living and breathing a sort of Psalm 46.10 kind of living.