Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Be Still … No Really, Be Still: An Interview with Anne Simpkinson

posted by Beyond Blue

I’ve dedicated many Mindful Monday posts to the topic of stillness … like how to do it. I’m still really confused, to be perfectly honest, HOWEVER, I have met several soul sisters along the way that are pursuing the same kind of spiritual peace. One of my stillness buddies is Anne Simpkinson, the online managing editor for Guideposts.org. Anne has co-edited two anthologies: “Sacred Stories” and “Nourishing the Soul,” and co-wrote “Soul Work: A Field Guide for Spiritual Seekers.” You can read her wonderful blog posts at “Thrive” on Guideposts.org.

1. I just wrote a piece on vacations and came across some literature that said, as much as we talk about wanting to change our environments and chill out for a week or two, most of us are incapable of doing just that, and scared to, actually, because it creates a kind of uncomfortableness of sitting with silence and tapping the desires of our heart. Can you speak to that?

Anne: We are bombarded daily with noise, information and activity. So yes, in that environment, it’s difficult to listen deeply to our innermost selves. Quiet, contemplation and silence can make people uncomfortable because they are not used to it. And yet, silence is like a deep, refreshing well that can buoy you in difficult times, ignite your creativity, deepen your faith, give more meaning to your life.

Many people turn the TV on first thing when they wake up in the morning! I can’t start my day with the energy of loud commercials and breaking news. It’s too jarring. That said, I live in New York City and love the energy, the sheer numbers and diversity of people from all walks of life and all corners of the world—the general chaos of a large, international city. So when I go on a silent retreat, it takes me several days to slow down, quiet my mind and turn inward.

When I was younger—I was a child of the 60s and 70s—I thought that Nirvana could become an everyday state of mind. I realize now that we live life as best we can “in the marketplace” but also need to create places and spaces where we can slow down, breathe, contemplate, immerse ourselves in silence.

2. What techniques have you used to slow down and try to be still?

Anne: There are little tricks I play on myself. Like I said, I don’t turn on the radio (except to wake me up in the a.m.) or TV in the morning. Many times when I’m driving I’ll turn off the radio. I don’t bring an ipod or radio with me when I’m out walking in the morning. When I’m writing, I’ll occasionally have music in the background, but more times than not, I won’t. The quiet helps me better concentrate and focus.

I have a surefire way of slowing down: living with a cat or two. My seven-and-a-half-year-old tuxedo cat, Mimi, joins me when I do my centering prayer in the morning. Once she settles down, she surrenders to sleep, “cat naps,” and her stillness is contagious. After 20 minutes, my regular period of prayer, I add time for intercessory prayers just to stay a little longer in that peaceful state with her.

3. Do you have any daily meditative practices that help you begin your day with (relative) peace of mind?

Anne: In the mid-90s, I found a practice called Centering Prayer, which was developed by three Trappist monks—Father Thomas Keating, Father M. Basil Pennington and Father William Menninger. The practice is based on a method described in the 14th-century text, The Cloud of Unknowing, and which has been refined over the years. Instead of focusing on one’s breath or repeating a mantra, one uses a sacred word to renew one’s intention to be with God, to be with God as God is. This of course requires us to disengage from our thoughts. Thoughts never really go away but they do move from their usual noisy place in the foreground of consciousness to the background; the experience is of simply sitting in Stillness and Silence. Or using St. Gregory’s words, one “rests in God.” That’s a lovely image, isn’t it? Just like Mimi surrendering to sleep in my arms, I too can surrender to God’s loving presence and embrace through centering prayer, through Silence.

So that’s my daily practice plus I participate in a weekly group, which is a really important element of the practice. I think that praying with others intensifies the experience and re-charges one’s commitment.

Occasionally, I will either lead one-day Centering Prayer workshops, like an Advent or Lenten Quiet Day, or participate in a silent retreat weekend. I’ve also done a couple ten-day retreats. If you have the time and resources to do so, I highly recommend extended retreats. They turbo-charge your practice and help you realize the riches that dipping into one’s center can yield.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment baby

    LOVE is the reason.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Martha

    Therese, I just want to tell you how much I get from your website. I’ve been reading for a while. Thanks for your observations and suggestions and the great links to resources you provide and have led me to all kinds of books and ideas. You do such an outstanding job. I wish you the best.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    It’s funny how something so simple should be so hard, and yet it is. So much has been written on how to “Be still” and we read them searching for that formula that will help us to do that. That says a lot right there, needing guidance on how to just “be”.

    I like what Iyanla Vanzant had to say in her book “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.” on the topic of meditation and on just being.

    “Be still and know!” Stillness is the key. Still the mind. Still the body. Still the need to be anything in order to get plugged in. …..be still and know there is a universal power seeking an outlet through you….. Be still and know that there is nothing more important than the time you spend in the presence of the universal power…. The results of this stillness, silence, and act of trust will be growth. You will grow in mental ability and spiritual understanding. You will grow in awareness and ability. You will grow in consciousness. You will grow in your divinity.

    Be good to you – Razz

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment barb

    she is so right. many times i refrain from having the radio on in the car, and just spend the time telling God how grateful i am for the life He has given me. i spend a lot of quiet time, i guess i always have. it kept me away from parents who drank and fought a lot back in my childhood (heck who didn’t drink and fight back in the 50s and early 60s?). i do wake up and turn on the tv for the weather and some wake up time since i am not a morning person. thanks for a great ‘keeper’ post! barb

  • http://tooentangled.com Sarah Collett

    I just discovered your blog and love it. I was wondering if any of you have read “Fingerprints of God” by Barbara Hagerty?

    After reading this book I have had a profound desire to meditate. Stillness is amazing. Difficult and so worth it. It is helping my depression.

  • http://Theblessedblog.com Ellen michaud

    Sitting in silence and opening myself to God each morning became the center of my spiritual practice some 26 years ago. I began with centering prayer, studied the “desert fathers” and a host of others who used silence and/or contemplative prayer. Eventually I was drawn to Quaker centered prayer and moved to a small cottage in the woods, high in the mountains of Vermont. Here, except for the sounds of birds, rain on the roof, and the occasional barking of my crazy Westie, the silence extends from my center into the surrounding woods and through the mountains. I have been so richly blessed.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jeniffer

    Hello am Jeniffer from UK i wanna thank Dr okadibo for what he has done for me at first i taught he was scam but until i just decided to follow my mind.i told him that my ex lover which i loved with all my heart left me for another all Dr okadibo did was to laugh and said he will be back to me in 3days time i taught he was lying on the 3rd day my ex called me and said he wanna see me,i was shocked then he came over to my place and started begging that he was bewitched,immediately i forgives him and now we are back and he his really madly in love with me.All thanks to Dr okadibo he indeed wonderful incise you wanna contact him here his is private mail okadibotemple@gmail.com

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