| Anne Williamson |

A couple weeks ago, I was re-reading old blog posts for a sermon I'm writing when I came across this one...

October 7, 2014

On Sunday, WAYfinding folks and friends got together for a sensory nature walk through a local park. The kids involved received a scavenger hunt list - things to touch, hear, see and smell. One of these items was to hear a bird. As my daughter and I took off, we felt rough and smooth bark, saw light streaming through the trees, heard friends laughing, but no birds. I remember thinking to myself, "Well, this is too bad. It must be too cold for the birds this morning. None of the kids are going to be able to complete their list." 

We went on like this for maybe 25 minutes when a question appeared in my mind's eye, "Have you really stopped to listen?" I had not. So, I scooped my daughter up, used the universal sign for "shhh," and asked her to close her eyes with mommy. And, there they were: the beautiful trills and chirps of birds high in the trees. It was a graced moment - one all too quickly interrupted by my daughter tapping my face and saying "no sleepy" - but a moment full of grace all the same. I simply had not stopped to listen.   

Does this ring true for you too? How often do we think we're listening - to our friends, kids, partners, even God - when, in fact, we're not? Because we haven't truly stopped... the external movement and noise, and internal chatter.

As I read, tears welled up in my eyes. I knew the internal and external noise had, once again, become a near constant; I felt tired and disconnected. I knew a break - to hear the trills and chirps of birds, of s/Spirit - was needed.

So, this July, I'll be doing exactly that: taking a break to listen, or what ministers call "sabbath renewal." It's a privilege, to be sure, but it's also a good idea: I cannot lead well from a place of depletion. Vision and creativity need space to swirl around and rise up. 

I am grateful for the many people in our community who are volunteering their time and wisdom over the next month: covering social media and the e-newsletters; organizing gatherings and events; and writing beautiful, thoughtful blog posts. What a gift! And, you'll love what they have to share!

We live in a noisy culture that idolizes "going" and "doing." It's an idolization to which I'm very susceptible. It's why this is less like the second time I've had to tell myself to stop and listen, and more like the 1,002 time. That's okay; it won't be the last time, and I'm growing tired of shame as a shadow. But, I'll also keep trying, keep moving toward a better practice of stillness. So much of the good stuff speaks only in a whisper, and I'm also growing tired of missing it.


Take a moment to listen for what's stirring in you. Perhaps you're feeling pulled to listen more deeply, learn something new or love better. There are many gatherings and events being offered by WAYfinding folks this summer that may help. Wherever you're feeling pulled, set it as an intention and then go about the work of being or doing. 

My offering: Positive psychologist Shawn Achor says, "If you've got a lot of noise, your brain never gets to meaning." This seems to me to be the conundrum of our 21st century western culture: we've got A LOT of noise, but meaning is what literally makes life meaningful. The only solution I see is to learn to cancel the noise occasionally and increasingly. You may or may not be in a position to take a month off this summer, but you can go for a walk in the woods or take 10 minutes a day in a quiet room to pay attention to the detail around you, to listen to your breath, to feel your heart. How can you stop and listen this summer?