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Silent Sunday

Unknowing Receptivity


The theme for this silent Sunday is unknowing receptivity, and I believe this to be a deeply transformative attitude if we return to it regularly. I invite you to join in with the music, readings and reflections around this theme.

Opening music:

Mystery HymnLowland Hum
00:00 / 03:12


There’s a mystery
And it holds me
Even holds tight when I let go
It surrounds me and confounds me
There’s nowhere it isn’t so

From the far-flung interstellar
To the secret of things that grow
Vast in every direction
High or deep as you want to go

Hallelujah, hallelujah
This old mystery won’t let me go
Let me spend my whole life living
Eyes wide open to the show

Spend some time in silent prayer now (you can choose between a 10 minute timer and a 20 minute timer below, which each have a gong at the beginning and three gongs at the end). If you find your mind wandering, or feel unsure about how your prayer is going, simply respond with "I don't know", gently let go of your thoughts and return to being present, to awareness of your breath or your sacred word. 

Ten minute silence timer
00:00 / 10:25
Twenty minute silence timer
00:00 / 20:28

Listen to the following music as an ending to the time of prayer:

Learning to sit with not knowingCarrie Newcomer
00:00 / 04:28


I'm learning to sit with not knowing
When I don't see where its going
Cool my heels and start slowing
I am learning to sit with not knowing
I'm learning to sit with what's next
What if and my best guess
Be kinder when it's a process
I'm learning to live with what's next
Here's a clear space I've chosen
Where the denseness of this world opens
Where there's something holding steady and true
Regardless of me or you
I'm learning live with the high stakes
Befriending my mistakes
Lay my hand where my heart aches
I'm learning live with the high stakes
Here's a clear space I've chosen
Where the denseness of this world opens
Where there's something holding steady and true
Regardless of me or you
I'm learning to live with what takes time
No ribbon across some finish line
Stop feeling I'm always a day behind
I'm learning to live with what takes time
I'm learning to sit with not knowing
When I don't see where its going
Cool my heels and start slowing
I'm learning to sit with not knowing
I'm learning to sit with not knowing
I'm learning to sit with not knowing


Read the following readings through twice or three times, with an attitude of open receptivity.

Reading 1: Romans 11:33‭-‬36 paraphrase

Oh, the depth of the riches of Your wisdom and knowledge, O God!

How unsearchable Your judgments, and Your paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known Your mind? Or who has been Your counselor?

Who has ever given to You, that You should repay them?

For from You and through You and for You are all things.

To You be glory for ever and ever, 


Reading 2:Extracts from Music and Silence, by Rumi

The sun’s glory comes back.

Wind shakes our bells.

Music begins.

Your silence, deepen that.

Were you to put words with this

we would not survive the song.

Reading 3: Extract from A Summer's Day, by Mary Oliver

I don’t know exactly what prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Unknowing prayer walk (10 minutes):

  • Take a slow walk in nature, if possible, and as you go, pay attention to whatever you are perceiving. Taste your experiences, and try to let go of any ideas you have about what you experience.

  • As soon as you find your mind labelling something, or trying to understand or solve some problem, respond with "I don't know", and return to the simplicity of paying attention.

Everyday practice: We are one

  • As you encounter people in your everyday life, allow yourself to take the time to look at the wonder and miracle of each one you encounter.

  • Try to see this person with fresh eyes, letting go of any prejudices or labels, and to acknowledge their profound inner depths. 

  • Remind yourself that we are all one, as Jesus prayed in John 17. Open your heart to this person with this attitude of inter-being.

For further reflection:

Below are the quotes from the talk, and some additional quotes for you to reflect on further:

The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing: "I know you’ll ask me, How do I think on God as God, and who is God? and I can only answer, "I don't know." Your question takes me into the very darkness and cloud of unknowing that I want you to enter. We can know so many things. Through God's grace, our minds can explore, understand, and reflect on creation and even on God's own works, but we can't think our way to God. That's why I'm willing to abandon everything I know, to love the one thing I cannot think. God can be loved, but not thought."

David McRaney: “The illusion of asymmetrical insight clouds your ability to see the people you disagree with as nuanced and complex. You tend to see your self and the groups you belong to in shades of grey, but others and their groups as solid and defined primary colours lacking nuance or complexity. ... Remember, you are not so smart, and what seems like an insight is often an illusion.” 

Rumi: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep.”

Alan Watts: "We can only experience reality by bringing our whole consciousness into the present moment – by allowing our minds to unconsciously respond to the present as the trees respond to the wind – without hesitation or thought. This is meditation."

Thomas Merton: "What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe. ... The spiritual life is something that people worry about when they are so busy with something else they think they ought to be spiritual. Spiritual life is guilt. Up here in the woods is seen the New Testament: that is to say, the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it."

James Finley: "We must come to our prayer the way a child takes a drink of water. We must sit in prayer in the simplicity with which the reflection of a cloud sets weightlessly upon the surface of some secluded pond." ... "The core of our being is drawn like a stone to the quiet depths of each moment where God waits for us with eternal longing."

John Astin: "By becoming curious about our experience, exploring the unanswerable question of what experiences are made of, feeling and tasting the inconceivability of it all, waking up to the astonishing fact that experiences can never be adequately conveyed or captured by any of our descriptions or interpretations", ... this "reveals another order of well-­being altogether, one that is discovered to be present in every moment of experience, irrespective of the conventional labels we may give it, a well-­being that is just as present in sadness as it is in joy. This is a stable, indestructible well-­being that can neither be given nor taken away because it is reality itself, the same ever-­present reality that appears as each changing moment of life, a field of fathomless mystery and well-­being that is beyond our capacity to definitively label or describe." ... "the very experiences you’ve imagined yourself stuck in or troubled by are in fact infinity itself, the inconceivable, miraculous display of reality, shining forth as each instant of life."

Joan Chittister: "Faith is not about understanding the ways of God. It is not about maneuvering God into a position of human subjugation, making a God who is a benign deity who exists to see life as we do. Faith, in fact, is not about understanding at all. It is about awe in the face of the God of all. And it is awe that inspires an alleluia to the human soul. Faith is about reverencing precisely what we do not understand—the mystery of the Life Force that generates life for us all. It is about grounding ourselves in a universe so intelligent, so logical, so clearly loving that only a God in love with life could possibly account for it completely."

Ending Prayer:

You are above me O God, 

You are within.

You are in all things, yet contained by no thing.

Teach me to seek You in all that has life,

that I may see You as the Light of Life.

Teach me to search for You in my own depths, 

that I may find You in every living soul.


(by J. Philip Newell)

Ending music:

I may never understandSara Thomsen
00:00 / 04:15


Bees buzzin’ in the bergamot, wind in the trees
Hummingbird hummin’ alleluia, I fall down on my knees,
On my dusty knees, I pray with dirty hands to a Mystery
I may never understand

Cricket’s singin’ the stars out now they’re shinin’ in the sky
Moon risin’ on the melody of the cricket’s lullaby
And this fiddler plays with no hands
It’s a mystery, I may never understand

I may never understand, I may never understand

Now the red-wing blackbird tells me the morning’s come
I close my eyes a little longer, hear the woodpecker playing the drum
Sayin’ “Mornin’s come, and day’s at hand!”
And it’s a mystery, I may never understand

So, I’m sittin’ here sippin’ on coffee, wonderin’ how things will end
Friends turn into lovers, and a lover becomes a friend
And, oh, the heart is an unknown land
It’s a mystery, I may never understand

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Sharon's book that was previously called "Contemplative Living" has been republished by AnamChara Books under the title "Deeper: Finding the Depth Dimension Beneath the Surface of Life". The Kindle version is available from Amazon, and the hard copy version can be ordered from or Takealot, or from your local bookshop through Ingram Distribution.

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