While writing this Informer article, I am being serenaded by a dawn chorus, the early morning rays of the sun are streaking through the trees. Early morning can be such a special time, offering opportunity for quiet reflection, prayer and other meditative practices. These quiet or silent moments are an essential ingredient for living through the festive season that has arrived around again, far too quickly.
An aspect of Christmas which aggravates upon my soul, is that every mall, shop, café seems to have the volume of their sound system turned on maximum, with regular doses of Snoopy and the Red Baron blurring out. With all this constant noise, we quickly lose the still point in our turning world.
It is very easy with all the pressures of this festive season to feel frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted, weary, and of course feeling short tempered, quickly makes its present felt.
During this festive season, it is crucial for our personal well-being and those around us, that we take time for personal solitude, refreshment and renewal. These moments will be different for each of us, for some it will be walking or running, while for others, contemplative prayer, meditation practices, then for some, a time of silence, or just contemplating ones garden will renew and refresh the soul.
Whatever we find to participate in, this will offer a new perspective on life and ourselves, restoring our inner equilibrium. These quiet moments are equally as important as the perceived need to buy that extra little something, because we feel what we have not bought enough and need something else for that certain someone…
One of the books I am currently reading is Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue, which is a unique history and description of the English language. He offers this aspect of the silent pauses in conversation:
“English speakers dread silence. We are all familiar with the uncomfortable feeling that overcomes us when a conversation palls. Studies have shown that when a pause reaches four seconds, one or more of the conversationalists will invariably blurt something – a fatuous comment on the weather, a startled cry of ‘ Gosh, is that the time?’ – rather than let the silence extend to a fifth second.”
I readily accept that he is describing an aspect ofconversation, but it could equally be applied to other aspects of our lives. We just don’t like silence, we have to learn to appreciate and be with and in silence, just like learning to ride a bicycle, we will fall off, but we get back on and have another go.
What I am seeking to say, is that in the midst of our busyness this festive season, I invite you to take time to be silent, allowing the renewing power of silence to refresh and awaken you to yourself. In the film Awakenings which is based on a true story of Dr Oliver Sacks. A young physician played by Robin Williams, observes the stone catatonic faces of patients in a psychiatric hospital. He senses that behind these stone masks their lies the suffocated flame of life. Using an experimental drug, we witness them awakening to the beauty and wonder of life.
Awakenings is more than just a true story it is also a metaphor of our modern Western Society, its fast pace living, has anesthetised us, to how modern life has affected us. We have sold our souls to fit in with the expectations of the economic, educational, religious and political systems that deaden our creative spirit. Consequently, we are only half awake, we know inside that life needs to be different, we question the commercialisation of Christmas, yet we go along with the crowd.
When we allow ourselves to be silent, we awaken the slumbering soul within, we become aware, of what is important and what is not so, we feel and experience a new energy, and once more we find meaning in the midst of life’s activities.
Here are some ways that you may practice self-care this Advent and Christmas season and indeed at any time of the year. These spiritual practices will offer space and an opportunity to be alone, to recharge your soul, and re-discover a new perspective on your life:
Cultivate silence, set time aside morning, midday or evening whatever works for you, begin with small amounts, even 2 – 5 minutes will refresh you.
Practice a simple EXAMEN (Personal self – examination) prayer:
Notice gifts, (where have I been blessed, loved, or loving)
Notice struggles (where has it been difficult to love or allow yourself to be loved)
An invitation (what do I need to claim, to become more whole)
Become aware of what comes to mind, and offer that in prayer
Maybe keep a journal of your insights, your discoveries and what you have experienced.
Practice a form of mediation like I have mentioned previously in the Informer: such as lectio divina, or Contemplative Prayer, or a form of Meditation practice.
Remember one size does not fit all.
May this Advent and Christmas Season offer you opportunities to risk love, so you may make a difference in the life of another human traveller.
I leave you with this poem, which I also offered you last year:
The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn
Love still takes the risk of birth
– Madeleine L’Engle
MeanwhileI take this opportunity to wish you and those you love, deep peace and love this Christmas season.
From my heart to yours – December 2013
An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand