Until recently our world has been filled with noise and busyness. Passing street cars, horns honking, banging from the nearby construction and many other sounds that take our attention. Our thoughts focus on these distractions and other things throughout the day causing us to drown out the small sweet sounds like the wind rustling the nearby leaves or the birds tweeting their beautiful song. When we actually stop and listen, I mean truly listen, and minimize our inner dialogue we just may notice the rest of the amazing world. It is in this silencing of ourselves were our awareness is heightened and we see our deeper self.
Be Still and Know I Am God
- Psalm 46:10
Silence has a way of creating space within for us to seek the sacred. Its a practice that has been going on for centuries and is still commonly used for renewal and discovery along the spiritual journey. It allows us to let go of the burdens and stresses before us and recenter our perspective to what matters most.
Silence can be scary and intimidating. Some people are scared of silence because silence causes us to examine who we are and just maybe we are unsure if that is who we really want to be. This running away from our true self causes us to make choices that do not correspond to our values or desires. It can ultimately cause us to be overwhelmed and stressed.
Another reason why silence is intimidating is it takes away our most valuable commodity, time. Our lives are busy and to think about sitting silently doesn't seem productive. However the research speaks for itself indicating when we sit silently we are able to tap into our minds, thoughts, emotions, and creativity so that we can be more productive. It also allows us time to assess our mental and emotional states so we can keep good balance and mental health.
Benefits of Silence:
A 2013 study showed when mice were exposed to two hours of silence every day their hippocampus areas developed new cells which become integrated neurons. The hippocampus is a part of the temporal lobe of the brain primarily responsible for memory. It is also suggested that it plays a major role in spatial processing and navigation.
One study looked at various music styles to determine relaxation on the brain. What they found was the 2 minute silent breaks between whatever music styles chosen actually had greater relaxation benefits on the brain than the music.
According to an article on the Huffington Post, higher noise levels have been linked to increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and disruptions in sleep patterns based on an environmental psychologist in 2004. So too much noise can cause health problems. Creating quiet time and space can help fight against some of these health issues that may arise.
This sounds so simple! Yet creating moments to be in a quiet location and silencing our minds at the same time is difficult. Here are some tips for practicing silence.
1. Schedule it - Make silence a part of your routine that is built into your schedule. Give yourself a certain time each day for this moment to happen. Remember the benefits of it and the importance of creating good health of mind and body.
2. Start small - Start with just a few minutes and work your way up to more. As with most things we want to build on success so decide an amount of time you can be successful at being silent and go from there.
3. Turn off Screens - Screens are major distractions for us. Turn off the screens around you and place your phone in a different room. This eliminates the urge to check any vibration or notification that may come. Remember phones are training your brain, so instead let silence do that and forget about what else is going on except this present moment.
4. Go outside - Nature is a perfect place to be for silence. We can clear our minds by connecting to the creation around us. Find your place where its quiet, serene, and connects with you. Truly listen to nature and what speaks to your soul.
5. Focus on your breathe - Silencing our mind can be difficult. Focusing on your breathe brings you back to the moment and yourself. Use deep breathing as a means for structure in your silence.
Wherever you find yourself during the day, take a few moments of silence for yourself to relax, renew, and reconnect with the divine.
Thank you to everyone who is still following along and figuring out what spiritual practice works for you.
This week find a time to bask in silence and see what you experience.
Our guest blogger this week is Kalene West. Kalene lives in Topeka, KS and attends the Topeka Community of Christ. Kalene grew up going to Catholic services as well as Community of Christ worship when her grandmother would take her. When she was 14 years old she decided to join Community of Christ as a member after an experience at Racine campgrounds in Southern Missouri. Camps have been a major part of Kalene's spiritual life and continue to be when she attends Reunion at Camp Chihowa. She looks forward to being a part of the community formed at Chihowa during family camp and is going to share her experiences with you today.
Attending camp has always been special for me! There I experience joy, fun activities, and the love of being in community with others. It is also where I meet God reflecting on my own spiritual journey. When I was 14 it was during a campfire, prayer circle where I first felt that quiet, peaceful connection to God. It was that spirit that transformed me. In that campfire experience I felt the need and desire to join Community of Christ. I talked with my father about the experience and he supported my decision to be baptized. I have never regretted my decision to further my discipleship in the Community of Christ since. This is just one of many campfire experiences I have had. Campfires are special because I get to sing and I love singing! I also get to hear all the sounds of nature. They are also special because they set the mood for the spirit to work within our hearts and souls.
Some of you may not know, but I was born with a small eye condition which resulted in me being blind and unable to see. Yes I would love to be able to see God's beautiful creation but I also recognize the benefit from the immense love shown to me through this disability. I believe I will see all of God's beauty in heaven. The School for the Blind in Kansas City helped me learn how to get around and learn about the world. It is through my eye condition that I have encountered and experienced the ongoing gift of love through others. I encounter this love even more when I am at camp.
The camping experience has continued to be instrumental in furthering my relationship with God. I now attend Camp Chihowa near Perry, KS. It is here where I experience the breath of God moving through my life through the community and love formed. I love reunion and wait patiently each year for this experience because of the variety of things that connect me.
Camp Chihowa has become a special place for me because of the amazing people I have met. Each year I am surprised at the love present and the kind acts of people to assist me. Because of the uneven ground and unknown environment I often have to remain close to the main lodge. However people go out of their way to walk with me. I remember two years ago 8 youth took me on a long walk around the campgrounds where I was able to get to know them and what is going on in their lives. This was the highlight of the week for me as they took the time to be with me. I also love going to sit by the peace pole and hear the chimes near it.
The morning prayer group is also something that stands out for me. Though its just a small group that likes to get up early, we have strength as we pray for the needs of the people and camp each morning. It is among this sacred space and people that I experience the spirit moving. Camp also has helped me form strong prayer partners that continue throughout the year until we connect in person again the following year.
Other highlights of camp for me are the talent show when I get to read braille and learn about the gifts of others. I also love going to class and participating in Don't Forget the Lyrics, hymn addition. It is in the variety of experiences throughout the week that I find God being fully present and alive with us.
I believe the community formed at reunion is as close to Zion as we can get. People need each other and throughout the week we recognize that need. We collectively allow ourselves to connect at a deeper level with one another and move ourselves out of the way so God can work. It's a week of fun, its a week of relaxation, but more importantly its a week of renewal. Its a week to allow God to be fully present in our lives not just individually but communally. I invite all of you to come to reunion this year and experience this Zionic community. I promise you won't regret it.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:8
What else is there to say! This bible verse identifies what we are to do and be about in this world. Lets explore each of these briefly.
We are to be about God's justice. But what is God's justice? There are various viewpoints all claiming to justly act in God's name. However with historical events like the Crusades we all know that not every action is just. I think if we really break down the word we find the answers.
Justice is a concept of moral rightness. It examines fairness and equitable rights. Its taking action to treat people and creation fairly. Throughout the Bible just is also referred to as taking care of the most vulnerable in our society. The poor, needy, abused, brokenhearted, homeless, etc. We can all trick ourselves in believing we are just individuals. But God calls us to really examine ourselves to determine if we are truly looking out for the rights of others, seeking the best for creation, and taking care of the most vulnerable in our world. Talk about a challenging endeavor. This challenge is what God is continually leading us to. To stand for the equal rights of others, affirm inestimable worth of all individuals, uphold the sacredness of creation, create and restore relationships, and support those on the fringes of society. What else is more worth our time? This is acting justly!
The Hebrew word hesed can be translated into the word "mercy", "grace", "loyal love" or "loving kindness". It takes on the idea of faithful love in action. We can attribute loving kindness as an attribute of God which is revealed in Jesus. To understand hesed is to understand the heart of God. Its an entire embodiment of kindness. In essence God is saying loving kindness is an internal transformation of our hearts. We change who we are, our thoughts, our actions, our priorities, our feelings. Kindness is allowed to flow through our entire mind, body, and soul. This transformation propels us to act kindly in all aspects of our life.
However truly being kind in everything we do is a challenge. I know I struggle with this because this goal is hard to reach. I find its not about reaching this goal but continuing to work in molding who I am around kindness. This internal work is never completed. Hence love is an action, an ongoing endeavor toward loving kindness. Strive to live loving kindness!
Walk Humbly With Our God
Walking humbly is about our attitude toward God. Its about acknowledging there is something greater than ourselves that is at work in the world. Its not about me, but about the God who is reflected in everything I do. God is asking you to walk with the divine and trust in the direction you are going.
We have been graced with gifts, talents, skills, positions, wealth, etc. but all of those things can be wiped away in an instant. Taking on this gratefulness and knowing there is a God whom is walking with us through the circumstances we find ourselves in is everything. We must set aside our pride and give thanks for the Lord who is in all things. For when we humble ourselves we are lifted up by the one who loves all things.
Thank you to everyone who is faithfully serving God and making this a better world.
This week do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.