“After a dozen years in parish ministry, I can tell you I am not interested in adding to the cultural noise…”

I initiated this blog with these words five full years ago. Today, after 17 years of parish ministry, they have never ringed truer for me.

This past Sunday (March 3, 2013), my first back from a reflective “stay-cation,” I preached a fairly long sermon titled “Maintain I Contact” which has garnered more response than any in recent memory. In the sermon, I spoke of noise, the incessant commercially and politically motivated promotion of anxiety, and an antidote to our  “hamster wheel” existence.

I drew from two very recent experiences for my sermon: a 45-minute solitary session of profound centering prayer in our sanctuary, and my first ever experience with Long Slow Distance (LSD) training runs.

The experience of the prayer time in the sanctuary is too profound to describe in anything but face-to-face discussion. If you want to hear about it, ask me the next time we spend time together. The LSD run involved complying with specific instructions from my marathon trainer (and lovely wife) to run at an uncomfortably slow pace for an uncomfortably long period of time. I will be extending my LSDs every Saturday for the next six weeks to re-teach my body to devote extended periods of time to a singular enterprise..

I am achievement-based.

Running far slower than I can or want to – in public, no less – is not of my nature, says my ego, which is used to being in charge. But there I was, dressed in fluorescent yellow, jet black and electric blue, trudging through the hills and vales of my hometown: a day-glo zombie.

No earbuds. No noise. No achievement. Just this step during this breath. It was so foreign to me, so against what I’ve chosen as “my nature.” But is my true nature of my choosing?

Most of us regularly allow ourselves to be whipped to a froth. We don’t stop to ask ourselves what that “breaking news” is breaking. We grind away to get the job done without stepping back to discern what the job is doing. We spend time without considering what we’re buying with it. It’s a hamster wheel, my friend, and so much of what we encounter, consume and absorb is designed to keep us mindlessly giving our power to we-know-not-who-or-what!

We hold the remedy for so much that is plaguing us. It is an abiding peace already planted within us. Movement is you in relationship with the place you’re in. Silence is the soft sack that carries noise; peace, the solid ground on which every disturbance stomps. All that remains is for us to will ourselves not to let our nows be huckstered away.

Start right here. At the end of this sentence, when we reach the period, I ask you to simply close your eyes, take deep, regular belly breaths, and let yourself lean back into your silence, regardless of what is swirling all around, without and within you, for as long as is long for you.

Last Sunday in our church, several of us made the commitment to ourselves and each other to thus get off the hamster wheel for a little while each day. It might do you some good to join us…

Listening is the beginning of prayer. – Mother Teresa

Deep prayer is the laying aside of thoughts. It is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions.  –Fr. Thomas Keating

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