Drawing or painting from a still life–an arrangement of objects, often with cloth or drapery, in effective lighting to bring out form, a set-up to be observed carefully–is a basic art lesson. I’ve probably done hundreds of still lifes and assigned my students hundreds more. Still life is foundational to an art student because he is forced to carefully see line, shape, value (darks and lights), to discover what’s really before him, and to learn to compose. It prepares him for on-location work, but is more forgiving than outdoors because the still life can’t move or change, so the artist can work as long as he wishes. Outdoors, wind, rain, bright sun or shade, people interrupting, and noise often frustrate the artist’s focus. Some artists don’t like to do still life, considering it boring, but I find there’s always something new to see or learn in each set-up.
Life is like still life. We need calm, instructional, observational, unchanging moments to stabilize and prepare us for undesired surprises. The better we get at looking for clarity and insight in dealing with life’s darks and lights, the better we can handle unexpected disruption and chaos. The outside world’s noise clanging for our attention, the piling up of duties and interruptions to our inner peace would whirl us into a frazzle. But if we start the day with stillness, some quiet center that grounds us spiritually, we can circumvent whatever would push us off course.
I walk my dog, Beacon, up the hill about 6:30 most mornings. As I walk, I use the quiet time to acknowledge that there is only One Divine Mind, not many mortal minds, influencing me. I repeat a daily prayer to myself that declares truth, life, and love are within me because I am an idea of this Mind, God–Truth, Life and Love–the Source of my being, of everyone‘s being. I aim to see these God-like qualities in myself and in everyone as the day unfolds. It isn’t always easy, but it’s essential. By the time I return home to cook breakfast, stillness has been established. Reading, praying, and thinking spiritually further helps me keep this stillness throughout the day.
What does it mean to think spiritually? Paul describes spiritual thinking when he writes to the Phillipians 4: 8: whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Paul would have us dispel the mean, negative, evil thoughts that float through mortal consciousness as if our own. Instead, he would have us watch our thinking, guard it from intrusions, kick out whatever suggestions are not God-given. We know God is good, all-powerful, all-present. Knowing these facts, we develop integrity, which in turn guides us to whatever is good, true, honest, just, pure, and lovely.
When we say the Lord’s Prayer, do we understand what “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” means? In so praying, we are acknowledging God’s kingdom is present and His will is accomplished. As God’s image and likeness, which Genesis tells us we are, we are part of this divine kingdom, inseparable from God’s will. His kingdom is the only place we can be because God is All. There is no room for anything deceitful, wrong, corrupt, debased, immoral, vile, angry, hateful, sinful or evil in God’s Allness. His Allness encompasses all of us. No one is left out. There is no other place for anyone to be than with God, who is Life, Truth and Love. There is no other power, influence, will, or control. To sit still in the knowledge that God is All is powerful, influencing our day in every way.
As humans we may doubt our goodness–even the Bible knows man is plagued with wanting to do good but may not always achieve it. In Romans we read: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7: 19-20. It is important to hear the phrase “it is no more I that do it.” In other words, evil is not part of us but is a supposition, conjecture, speculation, notion, wrong belief trying to latch on to us for its existence. We have the choice to reject it or allow it into our thinking.
Sitting still with God, especially early in the day, enables us to align our thinking with God’s will and kingdom. We can be alert and disclaim anything antithetical to God. Sitting still we observe the darks and lights in our thought. When we keep stillness in our life, we strengthen our ability to compose a life more spiritual, to care for others, and to keep in tune with all that is good.