Chumley: “… hesychia is quite possible and advisable”

Dr. Norris J. Chumley is on the faculty of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in the Kanbar Institute for Undergraduate Film and Television.  He is also the author of several books including,  “Be Still and Know: God’s Presence in Silence”,  “Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer”, a companion book to the feature film and public television special.

 

chumley“It is a primary and natural human desire to seek peace and tranquility and to be united with God, our Creator. This is hesychia, a primal state of union with God.

The mystery of creation is that the Creator is present inside, behind, above, and below what he has created! There is no separation between God and creation.  This is a major tenet of Orthodox teachings.  This means he is also present in each of us. If we make worldly things of creation a priority, we miss the subtlety of the Creator.  Remove the material and the worldly and become completely silent and still, and God the Father is there, awaiting us.  Through his grace, divinity is revealed within us. 

Removal of stimuli, and learning to not be deceived by material splendor is the practice of hesychia.  It is a method of removal from illusion and dependence on outside factors.  Stilling the mind of random thoughts (logismoi) allows us a space for God to enter our intellect, and then flow into our heart and soul (nous).  By remaining still, limiting physical activity and the myriad desires of the body (through the practice of apatheia), we also feel God’s grace in a physical way; we are gifted by grace to realize that we are the embodiment of God.

We need silence in order to hear God. We also need places of quiet and stillness, where we can contemplate God and pray.  Yet few… can or would wish to leave all behind and enter a monastic life.  Not many people have the possibility or desire to give away all possessions, leave work, families, and colleagues and take on the ascetic life.

Finding a place and time to practice moments of hesychia is quite possible and advisable.  One does not need to live in a cave, desert, or faraway forest in order to become attuned to God… Thinking of God, saying the Jesus Prayer for five to ten minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening and tying it to inhalation and exhalation is a form of hesychasm.  It may be helpful to integrate the Jesus Prayer into one’s work and recite it before beginning a new task, or after completing work.

Even at work one may still take time to be silent at one’s desk or to utter a silent prayer before or during a business meeting. Taking a prayer-walk at lunchtime, uniting one’s steps with the Jesus Prayer may bring a deep sense of peace.  This practice of hesychia at the office may be significantly helpful in improving concentration and mood.”

~Dr. Norris Chumley, excerpts from Be Still and Know: God’s Presence in Silence, pp 117-119.

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