For the past week I have been intentionally trying to set aside time to be with God in silence. The funny thing about my discipline is it is a struggle to find a quiet space in my life to even start! If you have met me before in person it is quite obvious that I should not be defined as the quiet type. I enjoy conversation and I find that a lot of my spiritual growth is fostered through interactions with others. I had to be consciously looking for those little pockets of life where I could remove myself to spend some time with God.
I usually found these pockets of life in my dorm room where there are minimal distractions. I typically set a timer for about ten minutes and started off with some breath prayers. I would inhale thinking “I am here” and exhale thinking “You are here.” I did this because it helped me focus in on God and push distractions away. I did these exercises with the help of Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, which recommends seeing distracting thoughts as little boats that float away. I found this visual very helpful because normally I get very frustrated whenever I have distracting thoughts, so replacing the anger with the calming thought of boats drifting away made my experience much more peaceful.
During my time in silence, I tried opening myself up to God and recognizing the emotions that I normally ignore, and give them up to God. The first couple of times I tried this practice it was difficult; I often found myself chasing distractions or losing track of my purpose in the endless stream of my own thoughts. Instead of being present with God, I often found myself thinking about my classes, or what I wanted to eat, or what friends I should hangout with this weekend. It took constant effort to put these thoughts onto little boats and let them drift away, but the more times I tried, the better I got at minimizing these distractions.
I was finally able to be present and I started to realize I had emotions built up that I had not taken the time to process. I felt lonely since I had never been away from my family for so long. I felt the stress that was built up from all my classes. I felt confusion and anger because I thought I was wasting my time as I saw no benefits coming from my time in silence. While sitting there, filled with all these emotions, suddenly a wave of peace came over me, and I felt content.
The things that were causing me sadness and pain before were taken away, and I was left sitting in peace. I felt almost disconnected from the world as I sat there, not worrying about anything that was going on around me anymore. I wish I could say I heard the voice of God or reach some new enlightenment, but in reality none of those things happened. I can say that I was able to experience moments of peace that I attribute to being present with God. I learned a lot about patience through this experience, and I am happy I struggled through the rough patches in order to reach peace. I also know that I have a ton of potential to grow through this exercise, and I hope I can continue to take the time to work on being still in silence with God.
The UCC Spiritual Practices blog is here for you to grow and develop in your faith and daily time with God. The majority of the articles are written by UCC's own Garrett Le and Hanson Von Flue, with the guidance of Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.