Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Susan Corcoran

Our lives are busy, our days are hectic, media noise surrounds us and the latest urgent communication is at our finger tips demanding our attention. In this cacophony of over-abundant information, misinformation and disinformation how do we still our hearts and refresh our thoughts?

Discovering a simple spiritual practice of a daily quiet time can center our lives in a different way. The affirmations of Initiatives of Change describe 'Listening in silence - for God's leading, to the inner voice, or to conscience' as an essential source of inner freedom, discernment and direction.

We have probably all experienced those arresting ticks or compelling thoughts that when acted upon are critically important or even life changing. But do we set aside time in our busy schedule and make ourselves available for such thoughts?

For me the practice of quiet time happens first thing in the morning before the activity of the day begins. An alarm clock and a cup of coffee are essential. A notebook and a pen are helpful. It is a practice I share with my husband which allows us to start our day together.

Jean Brown in her book A Serious Guide to Remaking the World, describes the purpose of quiet time as 'connection, correction and direction'.

First, it is a time of 'connection'. I think it is something like logging on. You have your own screen name and password and you can make a direct personal connection with the Divine. If you take time to log on at the start of the day then you are more likely to get the messages that pop up during the day. If you leave it until later the messages have piled up or may be overtaken by events.

Sometimes when I want to download information on my computer a dialogue box pops up suggesting I need to shut down all other applications first. This is also true for quiet time. We need to eliminate all distractions. Turn off the cell phone, cut off the TV or radio. Make this a private and important time. Often I make a quick note of things on my to-do list so that they don’t preoccupy me and I can empty my mind of its busyness. Reading something devotional or inspirational can help refocus my attention.

Then there is 'correction'. This is good moment to look back and reflect on things I could have done better, relationships to mend, attitudes to change. What is the source of my anxiety, anger or frustration? Standards such as honesty, purity, unselfishness and love help me examine my motives and the hidden agendas. Sometimes there is an apology to make or a willingness to admit I was wrong. This housekeeping is an important part of the process. We must keep the connections free of debris otherwise this source of Divine inspiration is shut down by the clutter and chaos of unresolved issues.

For me daily quiet time is very practical and it is the most effective tool in my decision-making process. It is what gives my life “direction”. I bring into my quiet time the things that are on my mind, the questions that are concerning me. This process of quiet listening allows me let go of my opinions and preconceived ideas and open my mind and heart to another angle or avenue to explore. Unexpected ideas are introduced or possibilities not previously considered. Sometimes a new ally is identified or someone who needs to be consulted. Or perhaps it is a certainty that grows about one next step which has to be taken in faith before the larger plan becomes clear.

Sharing these thoughts with someone else helps solidify them and makes them harder to ignore. Not only does the discipline of this daily spiritual practice help de-stress my life but obedience to the thoughts adds an aspect of adventure!

Susan Corcoran is the Communications Director for Initiatives of Change USA.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.