This is one of my favourite phrases in the bible. God inviting us to be still. Still. Still….. and in the stillness we sense the presence of God. At least, that’s how I interpret these beautiful words and practicing the art of stillness is something I’d recommend to all fellow seekers of soulfulness.
There’s a beautiful song Be Still that just takes this phrase from the psalm and puts it to beautiful relaxing music. Perhaps take a moment and listen to it before reading on.
On my quest for spirituality I have been guided towards stillness and peaceful places – physically and psychologically – as doorways to spiritual realms where I have encountered many grace-filled moments, moments where I have felt my soul illuminated by grace. In this post I explore what it means to ‘illuminate our soul’, with the aid of author John O’Donohue whose gentle words in his book ‘Anam Cara – Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’ have been a guide on my journey and may perhaps illuminate yours too.
I’ve included several excerpts from this book (all in italic type for ease of referencing) and would encourage those who wish to get your own copy to keep and annotate for your own ongoing reflections. Let us be still…..
Spirituality is our spirit life, our soul life. It is the life of our soul – not material – it is who we are, what makes us feel good, it is our true self.John O’Donohue, ‘Anam Cara’
I wonder what we would describe to be our ‘true self’ or perhaps a better phrase is our ‘natural self’. Who we really are, not what others think we are or what the world tries to define us as being but our real, natural, authentic being. This definition above of spirituality resonates with me, our spirit life being our soul life and the life of our soul being the REAL self for each and every one of us. Sounds amazing yet really hard to be our real selves when most of the time we wear outfits of identities to fit into the world around us.
To be natural is to be holy, but it is very difficult to be natural. To be natural is to be at home with your own nature. If you are outside your self, always reaching beyond your self, you avoid the call of your own mystery. …..
Spirituality becomes suspect if it is merely an anaesthetic to still one’s spiritual hunger. Such a spirituality is driven by the fear of loneliness. If you bring courage to your solitude, you learn that you do not need to be afraid. The phrase ‘do not be afraid’ recurs three hundred and sixty-five times in the Bible. That’s once for every day of the year!….
There is a welcome for you at the heart of your solitude. When you realise this, most of the fear that governs your life falls away. The moment your fear is transfigured, you come into rhythm with your own self.
I wonder how much time to you spend on you, just you? Not on doing things for others or even thinking about others, but instead time spent on thinking about you, quietly, contemplatively, slowly, so the real You can be heard above the other voices in your world that constantly demand attention. The psalmist tells us in Psalm 139:14 that each of us is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Each and every one of us!
When did you last think of yourself as beautiful, really beautiful? By not doing so, are we not ignoring the wishes of our Creator? If we do not take the time to appreciate our own inner beauty that makes us ‘wonderfully made’, aren’t we missing out on the greatest gift given to us – ourselves and this one and only unique life?….
There is a deep beauty within each person. In its real sense, beauty is the illumination of your soul. There is a lantern in the soul which makes your solitude luminous…. In your solitude you are frequently nearer to the heart of belonging and kingship than you are in your social life or public world. At this level, memory is the great friend of solitude.
I am not very good at sitting with myself and have to make myself create space to ‘be’ with me. One way of helping me to be with me is by drawing to mind good memories, pictures in my mind – thoughts – of people, places, experiences that make (or made) me feel so alive they still live on in memory and never seem to fade.
My recent journey across the Western Isles of Scotland has added to this memory bank with many fond thoughts I return to again and again as I sit and be with me.
Gentle moments where I have found meaning, purpose, connected, loved, alive. I wonder what thoughts come to your mind of those moments, times, places, people, experiences that – for you – are so special, you an sit with them on your own and be with them.
As we draw from our thoughts, from our memory, we find ourselves journeying inwards to a very special place: Meistersinger Elkhart [ME] says….’there is a place in the soul that neither space nor time nor flesh can touch. This is the eternal place within us’. It would be a lovely gift to your self to go there often – to be nourished, strengthened and renewed. The deepest things that you need are not elsewhere. They are here and now in that circle of your own soul.
‘Thoughts Are Our Inner Senses’Meistersinger Elkhart
We know when our outer senses are impaired, this immediately diminishes the presence of the world to us… If your sight is poor the world become a blur. If your hearing is damaged a dull silence replaces what could be music or the voice of your [loved ones]. If thoughts are our inner senses, and if we allow our thoughts to be impoverished and pale, then the riches of our inner world can never come to meet us. We have to imagine more courageously, if we are to greet creation more fully.
[Elkhart says] ‘there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence’. Silence is a great friend of the soul; it unveils the riches of solitude….. If you have a trust in and an expectation of your own solitude, everything that you need to know will be revealed to you.
We have but the one life and it is a shame to limit it by fear and false barriers.
‘The glory of God is the human person fully alive.’Bishop Irenaus, 2nd Century
It is lovely to imagine that real divinity is the presence in which all beauty, unity, creativity, darkness and negativity is harmonized…. If you allow your nature to come alive, then everything will come into rhythm. … The shape of each soul is different….. we need to return to the solitude within, to find again the dream that lies at the hearth of the soul.
We need to feel the dream with the wonder of a child approaching a threshold of discovery. When we rediscover our childlike nature, we enter into a world of gentle possibility. Consequently, we will find ourselves more frequently at the place of ease, delight and celebration… We come into rhythm with ourselves. Our clay shape gradually learns to walk beautifully on this magnificent earth.
Be still….. and indulge in time with the real you. And know …… sense God’s affirmation of the real you. That I am God …. Allow God’s breath to refresh and refill your soul. Be still….