So Chris Heuertz in his book, The Sacred Enneagram, asserts that solitude, silence and stillness are the lifesaving corrections to the absurdity we've fallen into - the addictions, the coping mechanisms or whatever is out of control in our lives. And he insists that contemplative practice is crucial to living into transformation and wholeness in our lives.
That said, it's unfortunate that we tend to resist solitude, silence and stillness because some aspects of our awakening, growth and development cannot be realized without them. Each is a work of grace, a work only God can do in us. We need practices that open us to this grace, this work of God. God is love and therefore God can be trusted.
In silence, God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.This is easier said than done. First, we must being to recognize our inherent addictions and compulsions that we use to cope with our sense of inner dread. We all have them. When life goes sideways, these are the primary ways we seek to regain a sense of being okay.
[And by the way, these are the same temptations of Jesus recorded in the gospels: the need for power and control, the need for affirmation and esteem and the need for security. Curious? See blog post and sermon podcast.]
Stillness as the antidote to our need for Control
Some of us are obsessed with control. (According to the Enneagram, these would be types 8,9 and 1 in the Gut Center.) When life comes at us, we seek to gain equilibrium by funneling all of our drive and energy into some illusion of control. But according to Heuertz, stillness is crucial for us. Because for those of us with drive, whether we are fighting for justice or mediating peace or fixing what is broken in the world, what happens when we stop? Who are we without the good we do? And so when we are forced to stop, we may realize how over-identified are with our drive to do. Stillness then becomes a necessary counterpoint to our need to control and brings us into freedom.
Solitude as the corrective to our need for Affirmation
Some of us are obsessed with the affirmation and approval of others. (According to the Enneagram, these would be types 2,3,and 4 in the Heart Center.) And so for us feeling types who are addicted to the affirmation and opinion of others, solitude is crucial. Solitude functions as a corrective to the dependency on connection and comparison to somehow validate ourselves. So then, who are we when we are alone? When we can't meet the needs of another? When we can't read a room to get what we want? When there is no one around to see and appreciate us? And so often when we are disconnected from ourselves, we never fully feel embraced by others and we can feel lonely; and yet if we can connect to our true essence we can bring our true self into relationship. And so solitude is key in this recovery. Because in solitude, we allow space for our true essence, our soul, to emerge. Solitude teaches us how to be present - present to God, to ourselves and to others with no strings attached.
Silence as the counter to our need for Security
Some of us are obsessed with security and survival (These are the thinking types 5, 6 and 7 in the Head Center). And for those of us who cope by anxious thought processes in our heads, silence is crucial. Is it possible for us to turn down the inner noise - everything that serves as a distraction - to be able to really listen? Can we stop searching for answers long enough to hear the answer within? Can we stop worrying long enough to hear the quiet voice inside assuring us that everything will be okay? Can we dial down our anxious addiction to adventure and opportunity to hear that everything we need is already present? Silence helps us learn how to listen to the voice of God in our lives, a voice we may have been unable to recognize before. Silence helps us listen to the people in our lives who speak loving words of truth or affirmation over us. And silence helps us to listen to ourselves, both our desires and our fears.
When we give ourselves to contemplative practices marked by solitude, silence and stillness, our souls are nurtured, our gifts blossom and our true selves emerge. Contemplative spirituality calms the body, stills the emotions and quiets the mind. And in so doing, it liberates us from ego addictions, giving us the freedom to make major corrections to our behaviors informed by our True Self.
In other words, contemplative practice brings transformation.
So that we can become more like Christ as we follow the Way.
And so I hope you will begin to experience the richness of contemplative spirituality as you try some new practices this week! I have included some resources below to spark your imagination and curiosity.
- Centering Prayer
- Centering Prayer App
- Lectio Divina
- The Prayer of Examen
- Welcoming Prayer
- Fixed Hour Prayer
- Daily Prayers - Sacred Space
- Daily Prayers - Pray As You Go App
- Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
- Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton
by Jessica Ketola