Contemplative prayer is really a deeply humbling in that we really hardly know how to do it. Every time we enter into it, we begin again. There are no experts in being still and present with the spaces between thoughts and feelings that arise. In fact, not being good at it is the key to realizing our “poverty of spirit” that we need to “Be still and know that I am God.”
James Finley identifies three levels of silence:
- Imposed Silence – when we can’t speak externally but the noise inside is loud
- Chosen Silence – our participation in silence through a contemplative practice
- Eternal Silence – an openness in contemplation to experiencing the presence of God.
Eternal Silence is a reminder that it was out of silence that God spoke and created. All words arrive out of eternal silence and return to it. “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation”- Thomas Keating.
The Chosen Silence through a contemplative practice deepens our capacity to be present here-and-now. It may initially feels like an emptiness, an absence we need to fill – a poverty we feel within silence. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and our False Self seems to whisper “What’s next? Is that all there is? Remember all the things you need to do?”
The paradox is that our contemplative prayer practice does not create the poverty of our silence. It can makes us aware of how much of what we say and think is mostly noise covering up our anxiety and unwillingness to be present with the stillness where we can experience our True Self and God. In Chosen Silence our False Self has no agenda in the “now” so distracts us to the past or future.
Chosen Silence is the path into the possibility experiencing Eternal Silence as a gift – it is never manipulated or created by our effort. To expect the gift of Eternal Silence or any other experience from our contemplative practice is simply our False Self’s egocentricity and noise.
Matt 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” – Jesus
My contemplative paraphrase: “Blessed are those who have the clarity of silence to come in poverty of words for they will experience intimacy with God who is always present within.”
How can we stop the metal noise to find silence?
More posts to come