A Note from Our Minister
Continuing Conversations: December 2020
Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity”
Stillness is not one of the spiritual practices that comes easy for me.
From Chalice Home-
Stillness can help stop worries and bring you back to your center. We all know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by our emotions. For example, when someone makes us mad, when we feel sad, or when, especially during this time of year, we are worried about picking out the right presents, or whether we will be able to see our loved ones at all because of COVID. All of it adds up to the feeling of being off-balance and even dizzy. Which is why it’s so important to develop the practice of stillness and find your center. Stillness helps us find peace in the midst of being overwhelmed by the holidays and at any time.
So, Dear UUCLV family, let me both share my great joy at being here with you and celebrating my first Holiday season with you all. The days from Halloween to Three Kings Day fill me with joy, some worry about eating too much and optimism about the future.
Finding myself in the midst of this strange season of Covid-19 isn’t cool at all. I really like to let go and eat, drink within reason and above all be merry this time of year.
Nevertheless here I am, and here we are. I’m hoping for the best possible outcomes for each of us, all of us, heck our entire human family.
Yes, dear friends I’m seeking stillness in my mind, body and spirit and I’m suggesting it for you too.
Here’s the rub-
My mind wanders into strange and often curious excursions.
My spirit hops around like water on a hot skillet and before I know it the focus can be gone.
Then of course, suddenly I realize I am off to Neverland, not being still with myself, my higher power, or the task at hand.
In the more perfect incarnation of myself I thrive in getting things done. Is thrive the right word? Maybe addicted/obsessed/focused is more exact. I love being busy/productive. Always having more to do. Accomplishing something. Anything.
To be still is not automatic for many of us. My “sit still” skillset slips and stumbles. Practicing stillness is hard for me. Anyone else relate to this?
Stillness can be hard to come by. There’s just so much going on. So much noise both inside and outside. So many things on our to-do lists. At least several screens within reach. The text, the emails, the phone calls, the needy relatives it is a lot!
But stillness is still possible. It, too, is within our reach whenever we need it.
We can cultivate stillness while walking on a busy street, while chaos swirls all around us. “Some of the coolest experiences are to be in the busiest of places and to foster an internal and external stillness for yourself,” said Karin Lawson, PsyD, a psychologist and clinical director of Embrace, the binge eating recovery program at Oliver-Pyatt Centers.
Some of her favorite spots include the airport and mall.
The key is to create an intention of stillness to have some intentionality about how we’re carrying ourselves in a given moment and to focus on what is within our control, she said.
Imagine you physically slow down by sitting, slowly walking or even lying down, she said. You might reduce external noises in your environment by lowering the lights and turning down the music or better yet turning the TV, phone or IPad off.
Stillness is powerful. “Being still is like replenishing the stores. It allows us time and space.” It gives us time and space to self-reflect and actually hear our thoughts, Lawson said.
It also soothes our nervous system. “Stillness produces the anti-stress fix by allowing us some chill time without totally checking out and being numb to our experience.”
Stillness looks different at different moments and in different situations, Lawson said. Her ultimate “best” still moments are when she turns off the stimuli around her. She might shut her eyes to calm her thoughts and focus her attention on one thing. She tries to make the moment “as basic and simple as possible.”
Here are several insights and suggestions from Lawson on practicing stillness:
Breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths induces the parasympathetic system and slows your heart rate, Lawson said.
Practice when you need it. Lawson practices stillness anywhere, “when the moment hits me regardless of where I am.” Sometimes, she’ll practice in her office in the middle of the day. She locks the door, and puts up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, taking a few minutes for herself. “This allows my work space to not only represent the hustle and bustle of work, but now when I enter my office I also have calming, relaxing experiences to draw from and remember.”
Schedule stillness. If you aren’t creating stillness spontaneously, schedule it, keeping this time sacred, she said. Or set an alarm on your phone. “Make it a priority and let others know in your life, so that they can honor this time you are setting aside for yourself.”
Find a favorite spot. Again, you can experience stillness anywhere. But it can help to start at a favorite place. This might be outdoors, such as a park or bench, or at home, in complete silence, she said.
Listen to soft music. Sometimes, people are afraid of being alone with their thoughts, Lawson said. This is when creating more structure is helpful. One way is by listening to soft, slow music. Music also is great when silence becomes deafening.
Repeat calming phrases. This also gives your stillness structure. Lawson shared these examples: “I am calm and still,” or “I can create stillness.”
“Stillness has a lot of looks and in my book there are no right or wrong ways to do it,” Lawson said. “Because once we start talking about the ‘right way,’ then there we go right back to the productivity and achievement mindset.”
She shared these additional examples of stillness: directing thoughts to peaceful statements; focusing on a soothing image that evokes a sense of stillness, such as a natural landscape; taking a slow walk without talking or listening to music; sitting down and taking deep breaths until you feel stillness in your body; closing your eyes for several moments; journaling; or reading.
Remember that “just because the world around us is in full-blown chaos, doesn’t mean we always need to join” Lawson said. She shared this quote from Hermann Hesse: “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat any time.”
So in this Holiday Season take some time for yourself. Allow the STILLNESS to be.
Enjoy your family and friends from a distance because that’s what makes sense now. Eat the goodies, watch the holiday classics, write old fashioned cards, call someone you haven’t seen in a while and give yourself the gift of life this special season.
In faith and Holiday Cheer,
Rev Gordon Clay Bailey