Time. The wellness gurus tell us to take time to be mindful, to stop our busyness and really pay attention to what is around us. We should not get caught up in the events and mistakes of the past, or worry about the potential problems of the future, but focus on what is happening right here, right now. That advice is right up there with getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, getting sufficient exercise. All very good suggestions! But how practical is it to take time, given the crowded lives we live?
I am writing this at the beginning of Advent, which is meant to be a period of quiet reflectiveness, of waiting for the arrival of the Christ child. Were you able to take the time to do this, or was your time swallowed up by preparations for Christmas—at home or at the church?
When you read this, it will be in January and the start of a whole new year of starting up projects, planning for AGM’s, shovelling snow and dealing with winter driving. Is there space in your New Year schedule to take time for quiet reflection? Or do you spend your free time fretting about all the things you still have to do?
Why is it important to take time to just BE? Our life these days is filled with distractions. When we don’t have jobs to do, we watch TV or stare at our smartphones. Even waiting in line at a shop or doctor’s office, notice how almost everyone is staring at a screen. Going for a hike in the woods, notice how so many people have earphones to listen to music or podcasts rather than listening to birdsong. Heaven forbid, we should just stare into space! And silence is scary.
Silence is important because the Holy Spirit cannot speak to us when we are distracted; when our ears and minds are full of superficial chatter. But the Spirit wants to speak to us. God wants to speak to us, yet we need to do our part by listening, by being attentive. Unfortunately, God doesn’t speak in a loud voice to get our attention. God doesn’t communicate through the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but through the “still small voice of calm.”
Many Christians now are recognizing the benefits of meditation or centering prayer. Not all prayer needs to be in words. Sometimes prayer can be doing a slow, contemplative walk in nature, or walking the labyrinth. Sometimes prayer is taking time to sit quietly, emptying our minds (as best we can) of all extraneous thoughts, and just listening. Focussing on a candle flame or saying a mantra, a sacred word, can help still our chattering minds.
By doing these things we can find an inner peace, a calmness, which gives us strength to deal with our everyday lives. I encourage you this New Year to set aside some time to do that, to take time for yourself and for God.