Reflection is good for the soul, particularly after holiday season

January 8, 2014 

This morning I was listening to an online meditation by David Crow. He offered a lovely reflection based on Psalm 40 where the phrase “Be Still and Know that I am God” can be found.

The reflection was followed by 30 minutes of sitting in silent contemplative prayer or meditation. I prepared to enter a time of silence, a block of time just me and God.

I recognize that God is with me always, whether I am aware of God’s presence or not. After all, we just celebrated the birth of the Christ Child, Emmanuel, which means God with us.

So this was time to sit intentionally acknowledging the presence of God, holding awareness that there is a source of life that is far wiser, more imaginative and ancient than I, time for oneness with the creator of the infinite universe.

Ready to be quiet — a chime rang.

Yes, there were chimes built into to the mediation in order to know when to begin and end. What I failed to remember is that a chime sounds a like, well, a doorbell.

The dogs roared down the hall, barking. To them, the chime meant someone standing on the doorstep, and they feel a need to discern whether they’re a friend or someone up to no good.

Instead of beginning my contemplative practice, I calmed the dogs — harder than one might imagine as they are 11 and 12 years old.

Once the dogs were settled, the phone rang, followed by a series of texts, which stood as reminders that there was preparation for a memorial; a meeting; and other tasks to complete.

The 30 minutes of quiet prayer did not happen. Instead, I pressed forward with the day’s events.

Often, this is how it goes. My very best intentions are moved to tomorrow; the day after tomorrow; next week; next month; even next season.

What I have found is that a structure for my contemplative practice makes a difference. When a friend introduced me to Winter Feast for the Soul, a 40-day worldwide spiritual practice period, I said yes to participation.

Our congregation celebrates the time between Epiphany and Lent: a season of joining with others from around the world with diverse faith traditions in order to pray or meditate every day for 40 days.

We develop a daily practice of stillness, whether we’re sitting in prayer, walking a labyrinth or reading devotions.

We hope to move out of the 40 days between Jan. 15 and Feb. 23 as more peaceful people, able to offer more compassion and kindness to one another — God’s compassion that leads to lasting peace.

To join, go to www.winterfeastforthesoul.com. The meditations and prayers span Buddhist Sufi, Christian, Vedic traditions and more. They also are in multiple languages.

There are practices for children and youth. If daily participation is not possible, some participation is still good.

After the throng of the holiday season, silence nurtures the soul. May each of us find quiet, compassion and peace this New Year.

On Faith columnist Janet Matthews is the pastor of Fox Island United Church of Christ.

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