Categories: Rector's Corner

Counter Posture: Silence and Stillness in Lent

Sari Ateek
Sari Ateek, Rector

Do you ever find yourself – at the end of a long day – craving to arch your back in the opposite direction from your hunched-over posture resulting from sitting at a desk or in a car, or even standing all day long?  Sometimes, the only thing that works for me is lying on the floor and placing a pillow beneath my back to help facilitate a counter-curve in my spine.  Physiologically, the only thing that provides relief from the slouch-ache at the end of a long day is a counter posture – a literal bending in the opposite direction as a corrective to the spinal flexion.

At the Taizé service this past Sunday, I sat in a quiet sanctuary with 40 other St. John’s parishioners during an extended period of silent reflection in which the most prominent sound was that of one’s own breath.  As I sat there with my own thoughts and intermittent conversations with God, an image came to me.  I imagined myself arching backwards in a counter-posture to alleviate a tiresome forward slouch.  Except in this case, the slouch was the busyness and the “noise” that is all around and within us ALL THE TIME, and the counter-posture was silence.  

For most of us, our whole lives are consumed with constant movement and noise: the conversations, obligations and responsibilities, emails and phone calls, external and internal voices, electronics – all of this noise inevitably wears on us and makes us weary, like a tiresome forward-arching spine at the end of a long day.  For most of us, perhaps we’ve developed ways of coping with all this busyness – not least of which is a good night’s sleep.  But sitting in that quiet sanctuary this past Sunday in the flickering of candlelight, I noticed within me the desperate state of my weary soul and the true healing potential of an extended period of intentional silence in which my heart, mind, and soul settle into a conscious and liberating space of rest and restoration.

I offer up to us the image of silence as a counter-posture in the hopes that, like me, you might connect to the concept of silence and stillness in a new way this Lent.  Maybe creating space for uninterrupted silent reflection is more necessary for our spiritual wholeness than we might think.   Perhaps even our prayers can be noisy at times and prevent us from hearing the voice of God within us.  Spiritual director and contemplative Jan Johnson once posed the question, “if you had 10 minutes to spend with God, who would you want to do the talking?”  

May you lean into the counter-posture of silence this season, and may you have the courage to be still and listen.

Sari Ateek
Sari Ateek

The Rev. Sari Ateek is the rector of St. John's. One of the many gifts Sari brings to the church is his conversational preaching style.