Stillness is difficult, still.

Mental chatter still takes most of my attention. For the next few days I want to identify the chatter of judgments, labels, and explaining things away rather than listening carefully and seeing clearly.

Richard RohrRichard Rohr is one of my current favorite thinkers and writers. He is currently experiencing the 40 days of Lent in his hermitage, a small, solitary dwelling where he spends every Lenten season. In that time he engages in the disciplines of contemplative prayer, reading, writing, and other spiritual disciplines he chooses for the season. Anyone who exercises that kind of dedication and discipline deserves my attention.

Rohr writes that in order to experience the stillness of prayer/meditation (I will use those terms interchangeably) we must adopt the “beginner’s mind.” We are not truly open to those moments if we assume we already know or don’t need to know what those moments present us. Perhaps that is why Jesus often sat children down in front of everyone and said, “Unless you become as one of these…”

speaker at podiumI have to get over myself. I have to step down from my self-made podium and pay attention. I have to start saying, “I don’t know. I don’t understand.”

When I can just sit, without expectation of what should happen, of how long I should sit, or of what I need to do once I’m done, I recognize that simply sitting quietly is a refreshing experience. It only gets confusing and stressful when I do one of those things.

Simply sit. Simply observe. Don’t evaluate. If you do, simply observe the evaluation. If I say to myself, “Hmm, look at that. I’m sitting here worrying about something that won’t happen until later today. I don’t want to do that.” Breathe and relax.

Here’s what happens. If I can begin to observe my tendency to judge or worry or evaluate or anticipate, I create a choice for myself. I can stay stuck in that worry or I can say, “Hmm, look at that,” and go back to the beginner’s mind.

Creating a choice through gentle observation is crucial. At least it is for me.