Summer is lingering here in St Albans, but very soon what seems to me to be the busiest season of life in church circles is about to begin. For me, that means gently initiating some new things at the church I serve in and starting up some of the regulars that have had something of a summer’s rest. I always have a bit of a reaction to this renewed level of activity…initially, I suppose it’s an ‘oh no! here we go again!’ followed by ‘ah! this isn’t too bad’ with an eventual ‘I’m quite enjoying this!’ all until we get to December, when my only thought is ‘Arrgggh! BLOOMIN’ CHRISTMAS!!!’
On a personal level, it’s getting ready for increasing darkness and winter coz I just can’t be going into that unready in myself. I’m not a fan of heat, but I thrive on the natural light in the back of my eyeballs! I miss it in the darker seasons. Greenbelt helpfully reminded me that I’ve gotten rather out of sync with some key rhythms in my life. Not only a regular rhythm of prayer, but a rhythm of silence amidst the noise of life in general.
In one of the seminars I went to at Greenbelt I was invited to share with a fella next to me, who also turned to be a fellow Companion of the Northumbria Community, something that I wanted to initiate in life that had fallen by the wayside that is life-giving and helpful. My immediate sense was settling back into my contemplative silence practice which I’ve kinda let slack to my own detriment.
This practice was a big part of my recovery from sickness in late 2014/early 2015. Silence (with accompanied mindfulness practice) for me is like adding juice to a battery…I need to top it up for energy’s sake, but I also need to regularly defrag my brain. How can I describe it? My brain feels like it resets to a default panic/melancholy/empty condition every morning. It’s like that film ’50 First Dates’ where the woman has a condition of forgetting who she is every single day and has to watch a video from her family on waking up so that she knows what part to resume.
I don’t forget stuff (more’s the pity!), but in this process of recovery and rewiring neural pathways in my depression-affected brain, practicing self-compassion, kindness, positive re-affirmation is so important. I kinda hate that I’ve nearly reached 36 and my brain is still processing the stuff of a shitty childhood, but I know that if change is going to come, then keeping a good focus on helpful practices is important. It’s especially important to engage in this stuff now that I’m running free of medication since pretty much the beginning of the year.
This silence, although its focus is mental health, is also spiritual. Nothing is divided or compartmentalised. God is in the silence and stillness. He is there with me, watching the thoughts that rise and fall in my experience, and helping me to discern the truth and untruth in each moment. Seeing as I’m also re-booting the ‘what do you want me to do long-term, God?’ cycle, thats pretty important.
So, start of September is pretty good…feels like a churchy new year with opportunity to get started in new patterns. Let’s hope we’re still afloat by winter…I’ll let you know!