The Spiritual Practice of Silence
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.
Camp Hope & Camp SIBsational
Our guest blogger this week is Janelle Hilger-Kopshinsky. Janelle lives with her family in Olathe and began volunteering at Camp Hope in 2008 and now serves as Chair of Camp SIBsational for KyMel, Inc. a non-profit whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. She is a licensed, clinical social worker and works as a prevention response specialist within several educational, for-profit and non-profit community agencies in Kansas. She likes to binge novels and sporting events while living across the street from family and laughing with her husband, Dan. Some of her favorite things include travel, all things KyMel, “outdoorsy” backyard adventures, and a satisfying cup of warm coffee.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Craig, for offering the opportunity to reflect and share “aloud” some of my personal experiences and in particular a “community gem” that remains an oasis for many children and families on the cancer journey.
Over the most recent weeks, along with the world, I have been reflecting on the mysteries of strengths available throughout life and beyond. This particular moment in time for me, has lifted up God’s strength in my life-noticeably found in the relationships that “I do life with” (a common phrase from Mark LoMurray, founder of Sources of Strength) such as family and friends, chosen family, mentors and guides and available communities. My spirituality is frequently strengthened through these relationships and is especially present TODAY as our world navigates into the unknown, a common certainty of living.
There is a parable in my faith community about the “Growing Seed” and a life that grows in stages and reaches fullness at the time of the harvest. Human beings have work to do in this process but the seed ripens “of its own accord.” "Growth is a process and God is the source.” This particular parable and lesson, from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helps me (and likely many others within faith communities) contemplate, explore and fall in love with life itself and to appreciate the strengths within each of us, as well as all around us.
A spiritual place for me that I would like to spend a little time sharing more about today, is the community found within KyMel,Inc; whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. I hold this special place with DEEP REGARD in my heart, for the community impacts and ripples of hope witnessed within our families and campers, supporters and volunteers. Their beautiful and unique stories make up our cherished history.
What started as a “special place beyond the rainbow” in 1983 continues to nourish the lives of so many. In particular, the invitation to appreciate the stages of life and the stories of hope available at any given moment is etched into our existence. Although our organization and camps; CampHope and Camp SIBsational, are not “religious” in nature and these sentiments reflect my personal, spiritual journey, some of our traditions, practices and cultures are spiritual in origin- as they honor going through devastating circumstances, together and connecting ourselves to things greater than reality, as we uphold in shear appreciation the gift of life.
Camp Hope began as a dream of a special individual who wanted to give children with cancer a safe haven in the summer to be kids, a camp of their own. In 1983, Donna Brown, “Ma” Donna, established the first Camp Hope in partnership with the American Cancer Society. Her vision was inspired over time as a parent of two children with cancer. Even though her son, Kyle, died in 1971 from a brain tumor and her daughter, Melani, in 1984 from leukemia, she never gave up hope for a camp for kids with cancer to become a reality and out of resiliency, Camp Hope was created and continues to take place each summer. To read more about our history, please visit our website.
Knowing that the diagnosis of cancer affects the entire family, in 2019 Camp SIBsational was created for the siblings of children with cancer. Oftentimes siblings can feel scared, neglected, guilty and even jealous. While these are all normal emotions, they can make many siblings feel isolated. Camp SIBsational provides those siblings a fun experience with peers who also understand how they are feeling better than anybody else. While not a therapeutic camp, SIBsational has mental health professionals on hand at all times to help if needed. If you would love to hear more about this camping experience, we welcome you to contact us at any time.
Open to youth 5 to 17, free of charge, and 100% volunteer operated, Camp Hope in Claflin, Kansas and Camp SIBsational in Elmdale, Kansas (and the over 150 volunteers giving countless hours annually to ensure Camp Hope, Camp SIBsational and KyMel can remain a “home away from home” for our campers) continue to celebrate and appreciate the small-to-great moments offered in this world and for me, personally lends to a deeper understanding that God’s strength is in us, with us and all around us.
Janelle, thank you for sharing about these camps and the incredible impact they have on kids. I appreciate your willingness to vulnerably share about your spirituality and life experiences as we are all made better for it.
This week the goal is for us to share about Camp Hope and Camp SIBsational with someone else and if you feel compelled donate or go to their website and volunteer.
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.
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