Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Becoming Quiet Enough to Hear

One more entry on the way to a book, now called The Time for Yes.

"God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer."
Mother Teresa

Can God get our attention?
In Say Yes to No, I offered some guidelines for the practice of finding a groove, but here I’d like to go further. Much of this process has to do with detaching from our techie toys—our cell phones, iPads, laptops, that kind of thing. When we tune out, we can tune in and hear God's deep yeses for us. 

I will take each of these ten steps and update them for finding our yeses in life.

1.     Realize that technology can obscure the view of the stars. By this I meant, alongside the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, that we lose track of what’s around us in the natural world. When we have too much to distract us, we easily lose track of the awe and wonder of the natural world, where we are often ready to hear the Author and Creator of nature.

2.     Recognize that ours is an age of distraction. Since Say Yes to No came out, there have been numerous studies that indicate if we are wired to respond to immediate stimulus—it even gives us an extra shot of that hormone of happiness, dopamine. The problem is that, if we’re checking our email while we’re on the phone with our sister and we’re texting and we’re watching a DVD, we’re conditioning our brains never to concentrate on any one thing for very long. But to hear that deeper Voice, we need to be able to concentrate and not seek distraction.

3.     Use the Power of No to restrict technology’s reach. This one builds on the last. It’s ok to say no to those devices that distract us.

4.     Turn off the TV most of the time. Our TVs are on too much and suck away our time. As Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi wrote in his insightful book, Flow; watching TV rarely puts us in “optimal experience.” And my contention and experience is that it’s in optimal experience that we hear the yeses for us.

5.     Do things you love to do. And so we come to the point to say yes to what we love to do. Is that scrapbooking? Is it playing the violin? Those are the places where we “come to ourselves” and there we become quiet.

6.     Center on the center. When we do what we love, we find ourselves at a deep Center where we can encounter God in our lives. At the Center, we hear a tailor-made yes. I know no better description than Psalm 63: “You, God, are my God,/ earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,/  my whole being longs for you,/ 
in a dry and parched land/ where there is no water.”

7.     Open the gift of solitude. It’s going to be hard to listen to God’s voice if there’re always other voices around us. Not that those are bad, but I’m afraid that we haven’t learned to take in the way that being alone can be entirely renewing.

8.     Begin each day by listening. That’s key to this chapter. If we start each day, going away from the insistence demands of the day toward the deepest values we hold dear, that will make a difference. “The moment you wake up each morning,” writes the brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis, “all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life coming flowing in.”

9.     Learn to “let it be.” So much of finding the yes is not creating a yes, but letting God lead what we’re doing. We are created to respond to a Yes that comes from beyond us, and yet resonates within. When we lay down our desire to control and micromanage our lives, in that place, we can be begin to listen.

10.  Groove with the spirituality of samba. I contend that the samba, that mesmerizing Brazilian rhythm, is the perfect symbol of what it means to groove with the right rhythms. It’s not all notes (yeses), it’s not all spaces (no), nor can it truly be programmed through a computer. It’s a human rhythm of yeses and nos.

Is there one or two of these you need to start practicing right now? Create a table with one column marked “One Step to Hearing Yes” and a second “How I Will Take this Step.” (For example, “I will begin each day by quieting myself in my living room for 10 minutes.”) Commit yourself to this practice. Practice it for 40 days. (That’s biblical and remarkably close to what scientists have learned is the time we need to form a habit.) Say yes to it. And be sure you tell someone who will ask you in a week or two about whether you’re doing it. Get ready to hear God's yeses.

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