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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Be Still and Listen is now available in Audible.
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Centering Prayer as a Way of Life by Contemplative Outreach, Pamela Begeman, Mary Anne Best, Julie Saad: In this, the third offering of this year’s trilogy on Centering Prayer, we will explore how the practice of Centering Prayer evolves into a surrendered life of inner peace and equanimity despite the busy and often tumultuous circumstances of daily life in the 21st century. As the inner room begins to expand its walls beyond the twice-daily practice of Centering Prayer, the Spirit takes over our life more and more, and we begin to accept ourselves just as we are, God as God is, and all reality as it is. From this disposition of true humility, enlarged under the influence of God’s grace, we live in the Kingdom of God here and now, which is a state of consciousness ever-attentive to the presence of God in the midst of ordinary life.
Centering Prayer as Practice and Process by Contemplative Outreach, Pamela Begeman, Mary Anne Best, Julie Saad: If you are new to Centering Prayer or wishing to renew your practice, this retreat will assist you with deepening your relationship with God. We will focus on teaching and practicing the method of Centering Prayer; review its place in the Christian tradition, its conceptual background, and psychological process; and share insights into establishing Centering Prayer as a way of life.
Lean In, Lighten Up and Let Go Practices for a Deeper Commitment to the Contemplative Life by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Dwyer: This retreat encourages a life of prayer and practice, both “on the chair” and in daily life. It will support you in making a deeper commitment to your relationship with God, and strengthen your ability to live the contemplative life through dedication to prayer and practice, all within the normal routines of everyday life.
David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer re-energized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. This companion audio program—created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide—gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.
How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? Drawing on the best available writing on the topic of Christian Mysticism both ancient and modern, Contemplative Light is offering a special course on the Christian Mystics Sacred Lives: An Introduction To The Christian Mystics.
The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism – Welcome to a comprehensive introductory through intermediate level course on both practice and perspectives of these timeless teachings from the Christian Mystical and Contemplative traditions! Whether you are a long-time practitioner looking to solidify your understanding and framework for practice or a beginner interested in immersing yourself in this teaching, this course can serve as a rich resource.
Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine – Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer.
Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:
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Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.