November 17, 2008

Silence Speaks

"There is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought . . . all the things that truly matter--beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace--arise from beyond the mind."
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Silence . . . Stillness . . . I've often wondered how productivity can come of being silent or being still. My mind and body regularly move at a challenging speed, leaving me exhausted yet proud at all that gets accomplished in a day. Often I get involved in an activity just so I don't have to sit still and be with myself, because I don't want to encounter the issues I need to deal with on a personal or spiritual level. Off I'll go, at lightening speed, to busy myself, when I really need to slow down my body, stop the internal chatter, and simply be. But it is hard. Silence, stillness, and "being" without "doing" are not natural to me. But it is precisely in these moments that God is able to enter in a special way, as if by invitation. Creating moments where His Spirit can enter and fill me with insight and guidance is so worth the payoff of slowing down. Here is one such memorable moment where I allowed the silence to speak and the stillness to move in my spirit . . .

If there is anything my close friends know about me, it's that I do not sleep in the daytime . . . at all. I understand that naps are beneficial to our bodies, but it's part of that not-slowing-down thing I do so well. I feel that I am being idle if I nap, even if I could use the rest. Since I trail run and walk often, I usually have my silent moments in the woods . . . but they're not still moments. And at this particular time in my life, I was in desperate need of a still moment. Then one day out of nowhere, I found myself searching for the couch . . . during the day. Much to my shame, I went for it. I just did it. I fell asleep on the couch. And from what I remember, it felt good. But the waking-up moment was even better. Here's why: When we are not yet awake, but not quite asleep, our bodies are in an alpha state, which is very relaxing. Meditation can be done in this alpha state, and it often produces some incredible healing in the body. So as I was in this alpha state, I was aware of a voice speaking directly in my ear (whispering, actually). I remember having a "thought" dialogue with this voice, so my actual voice didn't respond. I can't remember the words spoken to me, but the tone was one of peace and love. After the dialogue was complete, the word breathe kept sounding in my ear, which was an important word for me to hear (I'll explain later). I even heard the voice as I opened my eyes, thinking that someone was in the room. But the room was empty.

I wondered if I had just had a dream, but right away I knew better. It is my belief that I created a "space", an opening, for the Spirit to speak to me. By creating silence and stillness, the Spirit was able to speak with me at a soul level (not a mind level, because we are not our minds, we are our souls). And the word that was given to me as a token of that Spirit-speak was breathe. This word is important to me because I am a notoriously shallow breather (caused by anxiety). So to hear a reminder to breathe was such a help. From that moment on, I stop many times a day and really focus on my breathing. May seem silly to you, but it is a necessity to me if I don't want to get lightheaded or pass out, which has happened to me.

In order for me to hear the soul message, I had to be "out of my mind" (removing internal chatter) and still. I aim to be still and silent at least once a day now. Just a few moments of silence and stillness can open my soul's door to experience what God has to say through His Spirit. I don't have to take a nap for this connection with God to happen; that experience was just His way of saying it's OK to slow down . . . and rest. Sitting on my wonderful back porch can open the door. Meditating can open the door. Being in the woods and stopping to take in a silent moment can open the door. Sitting in my parked car can open the door. Sitting at my dining room table can open the door. The possibilities are endless. And so is His pursuit of us . . . endless.

November 6, 2008

Oaks and Acorns

My elementary school divided all the students into two teams. It was part of being enrolled in the school. Based on the luck of the draw, kids were either chosen to be an Oak or they were chosen to be an Acorn--a label that followed each of us from kindergarten through sixth grade. Oaks and Acorns competed during the year in various sports and fund-raising activities. The kids reveled in the competition, which often caused hurt feelings and less-than-kind behavior. My sister was an Acorn. I was an Oak. Not good for sibling harmony, since we already did not get along at home, regardless of our Oak or Acorn status. I didn't like the division the school created. Acorns always boasted that they were smarter and stronger. And Oaks gave it right back to them, saying they were the smarter and stronger team. The school even had T-shirts made: Acorns wore brown shirts with an acorn on it, and Oaks wore a green shirt with an oak leaf on it. Supposedly the Oaks were superior (after all, the shirts were green, which was our school color). This led to many overindulgent parents calling the school, demanding their child to be selected as an Oak. Oh Please!

I know the school did not mean to create such unrest. After all, kids who play sports are competing against teams. That's the point of soccer, football, basketball, softball, etc. Competition can be good. But there was something disconcerting about the school having two teams . . . until I gave it a little more thought. You see, the school was really on to something when it created the Oaks and Acorns, it's just that the kids and families didn't live out the bigger picture because their competitive natures got in the way of the lesson: Unity.

I was in high school when I realized that an oak tree produces acorns. (How embarrassing, I know.) I credit my ignorance to my elementary school years and how divided our teams were. In those days it never occurred to me that acorns and oak leaves were part of the same tree. Where unity existed I saw division. I saw competition. I saw walls go up. But Jesus' message of unity opened my eyes and heart. I now understand that we are all part of one unified body--God's complete and whole creation. We all operate as different parts of the whole. I like to think of it this way:

We are all one.

We are all different.

No one is special.

This seems like a harsh statement, but read it again and think . . . We are all of equal importance in God's kingdom. It cannot be another way in His eyes. No one is more valuable than another. No one is "special" because that would mean another is not. We are unique, yes. But better or more special than another? No. Remembering my connection with others keeps me mindful of being compassionate. It keeps me mindful of my competitive nature and how futile it is. It keeps me mindful of showing patience toward others who are struggling. But most important, it reminds me of how my actions can affect so many others, so many parts of the One.

"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)

"For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galations 3:28 (NKJV)

And so it is.

November 3, 2008

Crystal Heart

I found this heart rock last week, much to my surprise. When I picked it up, it was very dirty, but the hexagonal surface pattern (like a honeycomb) caught my eye. I really didn't expect it to be a heart rock or anything too special, but when I held it and really looked at it, I literally gasped! I had found a heart-shaped piece of fossilized honeycomb coral (favosite, to be exact). If you were to look at it from the side, you would notice the symmetrical pattern of stacked quartz that filled the coral hollows, demonstrating nature's organizational masterpiece. After doing some research, I learned that this coral is from the Devonian period, which dates back 300+ million years ago. Wow! It's truly a treasure from nature. When I returned home, I cleaned it off and the message became clear to me . . .

My soul is eternal, meaning it is really without a beginning or end. God's created me based on His specific design. My soul pattern is unique. And it will still be authentic millions of years from now. No matter what buildup I accumulate here on earth, I will always be recognizable to God because He knows His intricate handiwork. Just as I was able to identify a less-than-perfect, dirty rock for what it really is, He knows and recognizes my soul pattern. This is comforting because of all ways I inadvertently try to deny my soul's purpose, it's divine plan. Often I get so off track in my life that I'm hardly even identifiable to myself. Thank God He has the Master vision. God remembers who and what He created. If I'm lost and confused, I can always ask Him to remind me who and what I am. Therefore I can never be truly lost.

Then I saw the message of the honeycomb pattern . . .

Honeycombs and bee hives can remind us of being industrious in our daily endeavors, just as the bees are very industrious creatures. Honey bees work for the benefit of the entire swarm, not just themselves. Their efforts are combined to create an organized and efficient environment, eventually producing honey. They work in cooperation with one another, demonstrating harmony and unity . . . and I can't think of a better way to live. Unity. Harmony. Cooperation. Industrious. Efficient. Perfect words to take with me on my journey!