A Chairde [Dear Friends, in Irish],
The fact that I never wrote a February newsletter reveals how busy this last month has been for me. After periods of slowness and waiting, everything happened at once, in one full month.
In the midst of that busyness - and probably because I needed it rather desperately - I found stillness again.
Without my noticing it, my practice of sitting in silence for half an hour every day had been pushed aside, in preference for productivity and activity, writing and reading, tending and maintaining, to-do’s and plans. But in the past weeks, a few experiences have reminded me of how much I need to cultivate stillness in my daily life.
One of those experiences was the Silent Retreat that took place last weekend at Corrymeela.
As we sat in stillness together, my mind, heart, body and spirit relaxed in such deep relief, such deep peace. Returning to that stillness again and again throughout the retreat reminded me how important it is cultivate stillness in my life.
I realized that stillness is different from silence. We can keep silence while walking, doing chores, being busy. In silence, we choose not to speak, but we can be active in other ways. We can be scribbling in journals, waving our hands to communicate nonverbally with someone, cleaning up the dishes from the table. There is something delicious about doing those normal things around other people in silence - a different way of being in the world, a new way of being around each other.
But I noticed that when we gathered for our prayer times and I invited people to continue their silence by sitting in stillness together, it was then that a sacred quiet descended on the room that was even more profound than silence.
In stillness, we became aware of our bodies, our breathing, any sounds outside the window - the birds, the wind, the waves.
In stillness, we let distractions drift away, and we were also able to hear the silence, lean into it, rest in it.
In stillness, we listened for our own voices, which we tend to ignore as we busy ourselves or give preference to others’ voices over our own.
In stillness, we listened for God’s voice speaking into our lives, as we centered and quieted ourselves enough to hear the heartbeat of God pulsing within us.
Finding stillness didn’t come easily at first. My body itched to move, my mind flitted about, my willingness to sit came and went.
But the more I settled into it, the more I longed to continue in that stillness.
Now that the Silent Retreat is over, I’m drawn to incorporate structured opportunities for stillness again in my daily life. As I’ve sought out that space - for 20 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour - I feel myself returning to the sacred stillness I found in that shared silence with others.
Many of you have probably received prompts for reflection in your inboxes this week as we have entered into the Lenten period. There is so much food for thought out there, so much richness to be explored.
But this Lent, I invite you to something very simple: to find stillness.
And in that stillness, to let go, to listen for your own voice, and to hear God’s heartbeat pulsing within you.
March and Beyond
Resilient Spirit Retreat 6-8 May 2022 - bookings will open soon, and you can get on the list to receive information through emailing email@example.com. This retreat offers space for reflection and sharing as we explore together what helps us build resilience in our daily lives - what lifts our spirits in difficult times? What brings us balance? What offers us hope? Through the spacious rhythm of retreat, we learn more about what gives us life, energy, and wellbeing, so that we can return to our full lives restored and renewed. We’d love to have you there.
Next Silent Retreat will be 14-16 October 2022. Please mark your calendars, consider flights, dream and scheme about how you might join us for this sacred time of shared silence at Corrymeela… and some much-needed stillness as well.
We will also be holding an Advent Retreat on 2-4 December 2022. As you look off into the distance of 2022, keep in mind this Advent retreat at Corrymeela. We will look at the theme: “Befriending the Darkness, Longing for Light.”
New Psalms for the Spirit Podcast Episodes There are a few new podcast episodes in the works, which I will release as and when they’re ready. Stay tuned, and in the meantime catch up on older episodes. I recently revisited the conversation I had with Brother Thierry of Holy Cross Monastery, in which he shared his wisdom on silence.
Bless My Feet Community - during Lent I invite you to find stillness in your daily life, and I will offer some reflections as we journey together.
Blessing for our Journey
May the God of stillness
so that we might
for our own voices
and for the divine heartbeat
that pulses within
each one of us
each moment of our days.