Amos Smith and I had a chance to chat about his new book, Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Why did you write your new book, Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life?
Scripture, especially the Psalms were hugely important to my mom, who was the anchor of my faith throughout my life and still is after her passing last year. David, who wrote the Psalms, and many other noteworthy figures in the Bible, including Jesus spent thousands of hours in stillness and silence. And this was the basis of their insights about God that made it into the Bible. I call this phenomena that I have touched on here the “inherent mysticism of the Bible.”
Mysticism is not a sidebar of the Bible. It is part of its core witness. To the extent that we experience God to various degrees. As the figures of the Bible experienced God, we do the sacred writ justice. If we remain on the level of systems of belief and belonging we fall short of the mark. The biblical prophets experienced God. To varying degrees we can experience God too.
What is a mystic?
A mystic is someone who experiences God, not as belief or as part of an inherited tradition, or as a reverential nod to historical revelation. The Quakers, starting with George Fox, knew that true religion is experienced- something we imbibe and make our own – something that becomes part of our being in the deepest sense – our highest human endowment.
You talk about the inherent mysticism of the Bible in your new book. What do you mean by this?
I have touched on this in the first question. One powerful example is Jesus. First he took the mystic journey and fasted for forty days and nights in silence and stillness. Then he was “filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.” Then throughout the Gospels Jesus seeks lonely places to pray and sometimes “prays all night. In short Jesus was a mystic and all subsequent Christian Mysticism began with him.
You mention silence, solitude and stillness in your book. How do you define these terms and why are they important?
Our world is hell-bent on the accumulation of wealth, competition, and consumerism. The new monastic disciplines of silence, solitude, and stillness are an anecdote. Instead of the sex and money culture that dominates, monastic disciplines help us to get in touch with our true mission, to drop fear, and to come home in the most profound sense, which gives lasting security and abiding joy no matter our circumstances.
After reading your book, what do you hope the reader will walk away with and cultivate?
I hope the reader will be inspired to try contemplative arts, especially centering prayer, which is the most life-giving thing in my life. I hope readers experience some portion of the saturating Light of centering prayer, which is the saving grace of my life, even in my worst times.
Can you share a little bit about your silent prayer practice and why it is important to you?
I practice centering prayer at least forty minutes a day and take at least one extended centering prayer retreat a year. This has made all the difference. And yes, it is a discipline. And like any other worthwhile discipline, such as learning to play the violin, it requires daily determination and grit, especially in the beginning.
What is next for Amos? Can you share any future projects?
I am working on a couple of book projects and have worked with Rich Lewis on his forthcoming book titled “Centering Prayer Journey,” which I’m excited about. My passion is centering prayer and Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots. To get a sense of where I have been and where I’m going please check out the “Recover Christianity’s Mystic Roots” website. If you contact me from there I will respond and hope to collaborate with you.
Also by Amos Smith, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots
Enjoy a recent Richard Rohr meditation based upon Amos Smith’s Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots.
Enjoy a past interview with Amos Smith based upon his first book, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots.
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