by Mark Votava
Sometimes I think about what will help me to have a conversion to see the sacredness of all of life where I no longer go back and forth from the dualities of my own making. Is there such a thing as coming in and out of God’s presence? I don’t think so!
So everything in life has to be sacred, even my struggles, my pain, my angst and discontentment. I have been practicing silence, solitude, and stillness for decades. These are some of the most transformative practices for me as I seek to live in the depths of who I am without all the noise that wants to define me in everyday life.
Silence, solitude, and stillness reveal my true self to me. I am free to dance, love, live, show compassion, gentleness, be courageous, and become honest where I am at. This is comforting to me that God has given me such practices so I can really listen to what is going on in me, in the world I find myself in. Silence, solitude, and stillness are some of the things that connect me to a gratitude that might be fleeting otherwise.
I have a total new awareness because I believe that God speaks to me in silence. But this speech is not in vocal, English words that I can hear as a friend might say to me, “come on over tonight.” No, God speaks to my soul in the deep interior intuitions of my being. It is more like intuitions of simplicity, love, compassion, gratitude that my soul is being moved toward greater understanding within me.
It is hard to explain, but it is truly a gift. I start to see the sacredness of all of life as I listen to these deep intuitions in my soul. This way of life can be scary if I am not prepared because I will start to see the sacredness of everything that might lead me to live a more simple life the way Jesus did. I might start to become present to the marginalized in the context I live in. Everything in me might start to unravel of what I thought I knew about God.
Silence, solitude, and stillness may lead me to give up my possessions that I think I need. They might lead me to give up my arrogance, power, and notions of “success” that I have created for myself. They might call me to die of everything that is of my ego. The true self in me might have a chance to come out and live through me.
Seeing the sacredness of all of life cannot happen within me if I do not practice silence, solitude and stillness. All great thinking and beautiful ways of life come from the solitude that is pursued as we step out of our addiction to status quo systems we are embedded in to reimagine something more authentic. We become not so controlled by the narratives of entertainment, consumerism, and the “pursuit of freedom” to do whatever we like according to our false self.
My own experience with seeing the sacredness of all of life comes to me all of the time if I am listening deeply. A lot of the time I do not listen to these contextual revelations because I am not prepared. The soil of my life is not the kind that can receive the beauty before me. But I am learning to listen deeply especially when I don’t want to and it is difficult.
Practicing silence, solitude, and stillness is leading me to an authentic way of love, humility, vulnerability, and honesty. I am learning that there is a sacredness to love in everyday life. Love is becoming the dominant theme of my spirituality as the sacredness of it is so mysterious. The deepest ground of my being is love and silence, solitude, and stillness fosters this way of being in me.
Silence, solitude, and stillness have become valuable to me. They so often are forgotten in our culture of speed, noise, entertainment, and success. They are the foundational soil for healthy community in our postmodern world. There is a sacredness of life that we are blinded to because silence, solitude, and stillness are not practiced very much.
This makes me sad as these practices could revolutionize our world today and connect us to our true selves where love is the ground of our being. Why is love so hard to embody in our lives? Maybe it is because we do not give attention to silence, solitude, and stillness.
If we practiced these things we just might have to recreate our identity as our false self will be exposed, our dishonesty will fall away, and we might be able to see the sacredness of all of life someday. May God help us in our dilemma to find the sacredness of all of life as we discover our true selves through silence, solitude, and stillness. This could be our path to love over the course of our lives.
What keeps you from silence, solitude, and stillness?
Mark Votava is a contemplative activist, a core member of the Tacoma Catholic Worker, author of The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life and The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together. He blogs regularly at markvotava.com about spirituality and community.