Silence, Solitude and Stillness: the Trinity of Contemplation

Silence, solitude and stillness seem to be the markers of the contemplative path. Let’s talk about each posture and why they are important. During my interview on the Pilgrim Podcast, Lacy Carter Ellman referred to silence, solitude and stillness as the trinity of contemplation.

Silence

It is nice to take a break and be silent. God is in both the noise and the silence. (Just because we become silent does not mean there is no noise around us.) When we become silent we get out of the way and open to God.

This time is not about us. It is about how we can deepen our intimate relationship with God. It is about how we continue to fall in love with God. It is a time we set aside to let God love us. I do this as part of my centering prayer practice. I become silent, open to God and let God pray in me. It is like a reverse prayer. It is a very comforting and healing type of prayer. I rest in the arms of God during this time.

Solitude

It is nice to sit in silence with God. It is like when we sit with a lover or friend. Words do not always need to be said. We just enjoy the company of each other. We can also sit in silence in community. We might do this as part of a centering prayer group or other meditation group. The traditional Quaker service is a silent sit performed in community. Whether in community or by yourself, we sit in silence in solitude with our Maker!

Stillness

Stillness means we try to stop or better yet, let go of the inner chatter and open our whole being, body, mind and soul to God who is beyond our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. We observe the inner chatter and then ever so gently let it go. We do not judge, react, or analyze it. Again, my silent prayer practice is centering prayer which includes a stilling of my mind and body.

There are contemplative paths that involve physical movement: walking, photography, drawing, painting. They, like centering prayer include a stillness of inner chatter. Inner stillness opens us to God. We learn how to be. We learn how to be in the presence of God. We learn how to rest in God.

Next Steps

What are the voices we hear in our head that tell us things that really are not true? We seem to tell ourselves to fear, worry, over analyze, obsess, stop any future action. Silence is how we discover who we are!

We are loved by God more than we can even imagine! Our God is delighted that we have taken the time to sit and be prayed in. It comforts me that God prays in me! God enjoys to plant within us inner nudges for future actions we are to take or perhaps not take too. Sometimes God just wishes to slow us down so we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch things that we never noticed before.

Go Further

Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life by Amos Smith

David Frenette, The Path of Centering Prayer

Christine Valters Paintner, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice

Christine Valters Paintner, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within

J. Brent Bill, Holy Silence

Phileena Heuertz, Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

Daniel P Coleman, Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community

 

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Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

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