My friend Don and I were talking about the heart of the message we hope to share in an upcoming documentary on contemplative living. (You can get a hint of his work at http://www.dondowneywork.com). We have filmed the voices of some of the people in our contemplative communities. They shared what drew them into our School for Contemplative Living, and told stories about their best contemplative practices and their struggles with continuing those practices.
Don said, “I would like to shape the film to capture the message of the stillness from which we can practice the Serenity Prayer. What really helps people find ‘the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference’?” I agreed with him that living the Serenity Prayer comes through finding an inner sanctuary, a place of stillness from which wisdom can arise. But locating that place can be such a challenge in this frantic culture.
When I am facing major decisions about my life, health, work, or family, the kind of decisions that can change everything, how do I really experience a serenity powerful enough to guide me into a wisdom higher than my own? How do I know if the ideas/impulses that come to mind are really just my small self/ego self trying to run the show? How do I know when to act and when to remain still, when to speak and when to remain silent?
A poem for living the Serenity Prayer came to me years ago which continues to speak to me today. It opens the sixth chapter of my book on contemplative living. The words call me down and in, again and again. They are not an “answer” but a pathway. I hope they will help you too.
There is a stillness
beneath every thought.
There is a calm,
below every action.
The stillness is waiting for you,
waiting, for you.
Source of your personal giftedness,
river source flowing.
Do not act too soon,
do not think too much,
before you go deep,
where the waters flow free.
Drink to satisfy longing.
Let the inner drought end.
Best actions still always spring
from that stillness.
From the bone-chill winter
to the dry-drought summer,
best actions still always spring
from the stillness.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.