He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Solitude and silence are not self-indulgent exercises for times when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself. Rather, they are concrete ways of opening to the presence of God beyond human effort and beyond the human constructs that cannot fully contain the Divine. ~Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence
We are more than half way through this year's Lenten journey. If you chose a particular practice to maintain during this time, is it still working for you? Have you made any discoveries along the way? Do you plan to continue a discipline or a new spiritual habit through Easter and beyond?
The one practice I find that I intend to foster daily is contemplative prayer. When I begin Lent, this concept is nowhere on my radar. But the influence of Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence, not a book I initially intend to read during Lent, and the planned study of Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Grey,
encourage compel me to give it a go. These two guiding lights, coupled with my need to practice intentional breathing ('breathe' being my word for the year), and there you have it!
For those of you not acquainted with contemplative prayer, Bonnie Grey describes it as a time when: We use our hearts to enter into silence, to listen and experience the presence of God. It's like leaning into a quiet embrace. Words aren't needed. But she also suggests the use of one word during this time of prayer, especially if you are someone like me who tends to have difficulty quieting the mind. When your thoughts wander, gently return to your One Word. You may or may not hear God speak, or feel anything. That's okay. Just be with God.
In my case, however, I need more than one word to accompany my measured breathing, in and out from the diaphragm. Examples of this are: "Jesus" (inhale), "thank You" (exhale); or "Lord" (inhale), "I love You" (exhale). When I feel my mind spiraling away into thought land, the repetitive phrases bring me back to focusing on the silence, open to hear God's still small voice instead of my own internal chatter.
How is this working out so far, you ask? Honestly, with the clearing of the mind aspect, I have a long way to go. But the breathing part? Stellar! It is training me to breathe this way naturally. I catch myself multiple times a day engaged in diaphragm breathing instead of the shallow lung breaths I used to take.
But the biggest takeaway to date is the overwhelming peace and serenity I experience whenever I engage in this process. I feel refreshed, re-energized, and prepared to face the demands of the day before me. That's what intentionally basking in the Lord's presence does for me.
And can for you.
So be still.
He is God.