Be Still and Know

How changing one word of an ancient mantra has made all the difference

I hesitate to publish a post about meditation when the west is burning, political strife is ripping our collective life apart, and the pandemic is — well, still a pandemic.

We’re all at our wit's end. Which begs the question…

If our anxiety levels are more maxed out than ever… Why wouldn’t I publish a post about meditation again?

Okay, so here it is. It requires no dedicated time. What I’m offering is a simple mantra that you can recite to yourself when you’re doing (or not doing) anything. Enjoy…

When it comes to meditation, my preferences are pretty boring. I’ve dabbled in things like the Calm app with its various guided meditations. As trendy as apps like that are (and I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing), something about those guided meditations seem so… Contrived. They’re too lengthy and prescriptive for me.

I need simple.
(Super simple.)

The kind of meditation that I do is called centering prayer. There are people who geek out on it and write volumes about this contemplative practice, but the premise is simple…

First, you choose a sacred word. It could be God. Or love. Or Jesus. It could be cheddar or hummus. Or any word. The meaning of the word doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you hold it sacred.

Then you sit for 20 minutes.
(Just sit.)

The intention here isn’t to maintain a laser-like focus on the word. Rather, the point of the word is to use it as a release valve for your thoughts. So when a thought arises (which it certainly will), you go to your word, say it silently in your head, and that word returns you to silence.

As a lead-up to my centering prayer, I’d say a mantra a few times to get my mind situated. The mantra that I’d repeat is from Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

I’d sit and say it slowly in descending fashion (you can watch centering prayer guru Cynthia Bourgeault do it here — watch the whole video if you’re really curious)…

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

(And then I’d enter my centering prayer sesh.)

Now…

From the perspective of someone reading the psalms, this passage is fine. You, as a reader, are reading about God.

But when you take this into meditation and you say yourself, “Be still and know that I am God,” it can be an issue. Here’s where I’m coming from on that…

For years, I had the lines blurred. I believed that “God was within”. This translated into there being no real difference between God and me. Basically, we were on the same level working together to create an awesome life for… Me. That’s how I read it, anyway (and yes, I’m totally simplifying).

This felt really good until I realized one day that I — Jonas Ellison — am not a very good God. I’m pretty bad at that role. God showed me through grace and the ancient liturgy that God is God. I am not.

I am the created.
Not the creator.

This was my conversion moment. It changed everything for me.

So…

Since my conversion, I’ve flipped that little mantra and it’s made all the difference. Here’s how I’ve tweaked it…

Be still and know that God is God.
Be still and know that God is.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Ahh… Yes…

When I recite it, things fall into place, spiritually. The divine order has been made right.

“God is God.”
Not, “I am God.”

When I think that I’m God, I’m a stressed-out soul. That’s a big job. The ego loves it, but it’s a heavy yoke to carry.

When I remember that God is God,
I can be still
and know.
I can relax into my createdness
and just
be.

When I remember that God is God, I am free to just… Be. To behold with wonder what God is doing in my life and in the world.

I am a child of God (as you are). Resting into this truth brings such rest to the human soul. The ego takes a hike. And something much truer opens up.

I find myself taking a far more receptive inner stance. I can trust rather than force.

So, give this a try.
Take this mantra into your day.
And know that God is God.