Be Still and Know….

Jesus on the Crossby Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion

“Be still and know that I am God.” —Psalm 46:10

Like most journeyers along the contemplative path, I soon learn that silence holds not only peace but challenge. The initial balm I received in stillness has given way to an even louder clamor than before, and the pattern of my thoughts reveals my less pleasing aspects. Whatever one’s issues, problems, or flaws may be, sitting in silence will soon bring them to the surface. Maybe I should just go back to being my anxious, distracted self!

“Do not look at the temptation (to doubt) itself but look straight at our Lord.” – St. Francis de Sales

Jane de Chantal’s primary spiritual challenge was her strong will. Though her intention was good- to love God and to unite herself with God- she wrongly believed that she could accomplish this by force of will. She drove herself mercilessly with devotional and ascetic practices, only to grow more frustrated by her inability to feel God’s love or “consolations.” This led Jane to doubt her faith, which she regarded as the gravest sin of all, and plunged her into an abyss of anguished self-hatred. “Will God never take me out of myself and out of the world?” she cries. Seeing her predicament, Francis de Sales, her spiritual director, advised her: “Do not look at the temptation (to doubt) itself but look straight at our Lord.” In other words, Jane was so focused on herself and her agenda that there was no room for God.

Jane’s willfulness persisted until, at one point in her incessant questioning of Francis, he simply walked out of the room. Jane fled to the chapel where she was finally able to surrender herself on a deeper level. Francis had been waiting for such a moment to be able to help Jane grasp the truth: that all action begins with God. Before Him, we can only wait in emptiness and silence.

 

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To read more of Jody Johnson’s contemplative blogs from the desert, click here.

Out of the Stillness…

Jody Johnson on retreat

Jody Johnson on retreat

by Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion

“Lord, what else hast thou said to me by placing me in this holy monastery, but ‘My daughter, walk always in my presence, think of me in all thy ways, and I will direct thy steps?’ “–St. Jane de Chantal

Out of the stillness, time unfurls herself before me like a red carpet, and I am royalty, the Beloved. I walk through a garden of delights. As I practice letting go of thoughts by tuning into my sensory experience, the sounds, smells, and sights of the desert open themselves to me: the lush green of the plants and trees after rain, the smell of the creosote bushes, the trill of birdsong. I observe the constant shifting of light and shadow.

“In calm all becomes sensible and my soul is desirous of experiencing even the lightest breath of Thy grace.” –St. Francis de Sales

Jody_Meal_Blog

“When you are eating, eat.” — Buddhist saying

At silent meals, it is a pleasure to taste my food again. For months I’ve been eating hurriedly and distractedly, reading the newspaper or, worse, checking my cellphone for messages. I’ve come to anticipate the next bite before I’ve finished the one in my mouth. The Buddhists say, “When you’re eating, eat.” So I pause, enjoying the flavor, noting the texture, chewing fully before swallowing. When I do this, I know which kinds of food I need more of, which less of, and when to stop eating.

Could this be a way of living? Jesus says, “Yes!” “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” The kingdom of heaven is compared to a great banquet because it is realized through the lived, embodied experience that begins with our senses. In stillness, we open to the present moment, the only place we can meet God. There is joy. And, we can trust that, if we are fully present and anchored in God in this moment, this event, this decision, then the next will take care of itself.

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To read more of Jody Johnson’s contemplative blogs from the desert, click here.