“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd.” translates from Welsh to “Do the little things in life.”. This quote from Saint David has left a deep impression on my life. Seeing God in the little things is of paramount importance to reaping the benefits of a spiritual lifestyle. What does this have to do with stillness? Well, the modern way of life values the ability to move from one thing to another with incredible speed, and even among religious circles the only time we seemingly devote to God is the hour or so we attend service a week. To live a spiritual lifestyle means taking the time to recognize the divine in all things. For example the fact that I woke up this morning and have the ability to type this manuscript is a distinct blessing from God. Taking the briefest moment out of the day to concede the blessings that we are bestowed slows down time just enough for us to appreciate it.
Recognizing the divine in all things is a way to bring the spiritual into our lives. We do not need to be monks or members of the clergy to become contemplatives. Nor do we need to seek hermitage at a monastery to realize the divine present in our labors. I still recommend that every person take a trip to a monastery at some point to take a glimpse at the peaceful lives of the monks, and transmit those lessons to their own lives.
Working at a middle school filled with three hundred students can prove to be a challenge to take a moment and reflect, I challenge myself to practice the art of stillness. Whenever I have even the briefest moment to take a breath and collect my thoughts; I give thanks to the divine for the fact that all of the students are present and that I can share my life with them, no matter how frustrating or challenging it can be at times. Practicing this art, slows down the day allowing for incredible reflections that normally would be thrown by the way-side. It is a simple form of meditation in the workplace.
While I was attending college I had the privilege to take a meditation class. This class focused on zen style meditation of using the breath and emptying the mind. The final was a 10 hour meditation retreat that I found to be a very moving and deeply spiritual experience. Meditation has proven for me to be an invaluable tool to connect with the divine. Within my JVC community; I am sometimes tasked to provide an activity for our spirituality nights, and more often than not I include some sort of meditation in the activity. Meditation gives us a chance to lose our ego self, and realize our part in existence. In silencing our minds for the period, we hear all that is going on around us. From the subtle noises of the house settling, the water heater running, or the wind thrashing the trees about outside; meditation allows us to become part of the snapshot of existence.
Contemplative meditation is an art which can never be perfected, but there is an inherent beauty in it. Practicing stillness does not mean to sit and ponder the meaning of existence all day, but rather to realize the vastness of each moment that is presented to humanity. I have been profoundly influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton (who I have referred to numerous times in my posts) and if interested in further exploring the mysteries of contemplative stillness, I highly recommend reading his works. Taking time to be static and reflect on the divine is a great way to enhance the experience that is life, it provides us with a sense of deeper meaning in what we do as opposed to just actions.
The divine is always speaking to us, through our work, and everything else we do in our lives; all we have to do is take a moment and listen.