I have not always understood calm and stillness in positive terms. Being a naturally extroverted, energetic child with a mind that travelled at the speed of light, I was often told to sit still, be quiet, slow down… I remember visiting one of our Grandmothers, which was a very serious matter, at least it looked like it to us kids. As the adults sat around the living room and visited, there was a lot of quiet space in the conversation and little-to-no laughter. My brother, sister, and I would be sitting on the couch in the next room. We were supposed to be “quiet”...seen and not heard and all that. Well, as you can imagine, it was hard for us to keep quiet, sit still, and not laugh. What usually happened is that we would put a newspaper up in front of us so the grown-ups couldn’t see us and we’d start talking quietly and inevitably end up in gales of laughter until finally one of the adults set us free to go outside and play!
Well, there’s good news! Thankfully there is a better way to understand, practice, and experience calm and stillness that is life-giving, healing, and good for our health!
There is a breadth of meaning for still in our scriptures. For instance, in Psalm 46:10 that begins “Be still and know that I am God,” the term still doesn't refer to being motionless. It’s way richer than that. Be still can mean to stop fighting, stop striving, stop frantic activity, let go, relax, surrender anxiety…and know (understand, comprehend) that I (God) am God. That’s quite a revelation for those whose modus operandi under stress is to push through and try harder, assuming that God is happy with that, even though God has a rhythm of work and rest.
Brene Brown sheds light on cultivating calm and stillness with definitions gleaned from her research on wholehearted living:* Calm is creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. Stillness is not about focussing on nothingness; it is about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.
People in Brown’s research...spoke of quieting the body and mind as a way to feel less anxious and overwhelmed. She also found that the men and women she interviewed weren’t anxiety-free or anxiety-averse; they were anxiety-aware...committed to a way of living where anxiety was a reality but not a lifestyle. They did this by cultivating calm and stillness in their lives.
So how do we cultivate calm and stillness?
More good news! There are many ways to do this and they are unique to you. Gary Irwin-Kenyon, in his book Finding the Stillness in Your Story talks about pathways (plural) to stillness…like kayaking, playing a musical instrument, gardening, fishing… You see where this is going. What is it that brings you a sense of calm and still so that you can be mindful in the midst of chaos and so that you can create a clearing for the experience of God’s love and delight in you.
If you are looking for practical tips for cultivating calm in body, mind, and spirit, see Diane Strickland’s Pandemic Practicum videos at https://edge-ucc.ca/covid-19/pandemic-practicums/
Tune in to this week’s worship for more on the topic...
The Peace of Christ be with you.
* The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life by Brene Brown, pages 106 - 108
Reflection/Prayer in this Epiphany Season of Light
Holy Love, Holy Light, in this Epiphany season of growing revelation, we recall what happens when people encounter Jesus...the testimony of people in the Scripture, the testimony of generation after generation of people whose lives have been healed, changed, and transformed by those encounters...right up to today, to each of us and our own testimony. We know what it is like to have faith in a different future. Holy One, Creator, Living Word, Holy Spirit, we give thanks that You reach out to us in ways that are so personal and tailored to the unique ways that each of us cultivates calm and stillness and a clearing for wondering, dreaming, and remembering we are Yours. Amen.