SPIRITUAL SUMMER SCHOOL – FIVE DAY SERIES – SLOWING DOWN TO BE WITH GOD
Six Strategies for Slowing Down to be with God
We may all want to slow down to be with God, but how can we put this into practice? Today I am sharing six strategies for slowing down to be with God.
This is a special week here on Healthy Spirituality. While I regularly post only twice a week on a variety of topics, this week I am presenting Spiritual Summer School with the theme of Slowing Down to be with God and am posting Monday through Friday – yes all five days.
In addition to the words here, I am live streaming, Monday through Friday on my Facebook author page around 1:30 eastern, talking about this week’s topic and hopefully having a conversation with some of you.On Friday I will be broadcasing at 9:30 am eastern. I hope you can join me there too or watch the replay.
Each day during Spiritual Summer School, we will explore different aspects of Slowing Down to be with God. Today is exploring some specific strategies that could help us slow down. Each day we are unpacking the word SLOW:
S – Tuesday– Six Strategies for Slowing Down to be with God
L – Wednesday –Listen to our Language and the Language of God.
O – Thursday – Outstanding Options for Slowing Down to be with God
W – Friday – Wait and Worth
My prayer is you enjoy and learn in this special series. Let’s get started.
Six Strategies for Slowing Down to be with God – Slow
Imagine you have a tool box. You have in your possession all that you need right now. Some gear you use all the time, like a hammer or screwdriver. Other gadgets are for special projects or only ones you searched out occasionally.
I like to think about spiritual practices in the same way. God has given us a tackle box (to tackle life in His way) full and complete. We only need to find the right tool for the right project.
This week’s task is to explore slowing down to be with God. What tools and/or strategies will work best for you? I have six to offer. Try one or try them all or try something else. The idea is to listen to God what is best for you to help you put the brakes on in your daily life so you can experience God in new ways.
Space to Slow Down to be with God.
The dilemma is finding the space in our crazy daily schedules for moments to slow down. We take off most mornings like a downhill skier, right out of the shoot and don’t stop till we hit the bottom of the day.
The key tool in finding space is to pay attention. Step back and assess your day. Where could you take a moment to be with God?
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
Becoming aware of your natural breaks in your life.
Many of you have heard of the Pomodoro technique for time management. You work for 30-50 minutes, then take a ten-minute break. This method has proven very successful for productivity and in fact I am using it right now to write this blog post.
What do you do on those breaks? Often I stand, use the restroom, get in steps on my Fitbit, refresh my coffee…but how about taking that break with God?
Yesterday I tried this. I took a 15 work break, sat in the chair where I spend my morning quiet time with God and took several deep breaths. I set the timer, closed my eyes, centered and just rested in God. When the ticking stopped with the gentle bell (I will share my phone apps with you later in the week) I felt refreshed and reconnected with God.
However great may be the work for which we are responsible, we will always do well if we pause to spend time in sacred praise.
The actual space I work in also lends itself to slowing down to be with God. The window by my desk opens up to the view of the flowers in my backyard, the blue sky with white puffy clouds racing by, a robin sitting on my deck railing and green trees dancing with the wind. Just a few moments of looking outside, thanking God for his beauty and praising his creativity nourished my spirit.
Last year I created a small altar in my office too. A cross, candle and few personal symbols rest on the top of a small chest of drawers and is the focus when I sit in my reflection chair. I discovered creating a sacred space at home helps me to experience God more deeply and settles me into a listening mode rather than a “tell God what he ought to be doing” approach.
Solitude in Slowing Down to be with God
Kids need recess. Adults need solitude.
Solitude is taking a break away from people and listening to God.
I remember driving to work several mornings – working fulltime with three busy growing kids – and wanted to keep heading out of town escaping from everything and everyone.
We all need breaks.
Sometimes a longer period of solitude like a spiritual retreat is in order. Check out my book about this topic here:
But the reality in our daily life we can capture moments of solitude throughout the day. We have to be intentional in creating solitude in our days.
Quiet time in the morning or before bed.
Bowing our heads in silence before a meal.
Hiding in the restroom with the door shut.
Taking a walk around the block or in the garden.
Turn off those electronic devices.
Get up ten minutes earlier.
Capturing a few minutes right after you pull the car into the garage.
Find a calm location, but more important find that peaceful space within you that makes this practice a priority.
When you pray, go into a room alone and close the door. Pray to your Father in private. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you.
Matthew 6:6 (CEV)
What could you add to the practice of solitude?
Silence to Slow Down to be with God
Silence is the partner with solitude. But many days the external and internal noise drowns out any hope of silence.
“God is the friend of silence. His language is silence. And he requires us to be silent to discover him. We need, therefore, silence to be alone with God, to speak to him, to listen to him and to ponder his words deep in our hearts. We need to be alone with God in silence to be renewed and to be transformed. For silence can give us a new outlook on life. In it we are filled with the grace of God, which makes us do all things with joy.”
Silence can be found, though its depths vary. During a busy day, small sips of silence can add up like taking tiny swallows of water throughout the day keeps your fluid intake in balance.
Many of the same techniques for finding solitude works for silence, at least the external silence. For example, simply turn off email and texting beeps and chirps. Wearing my noise canceling headphones. Listening to nature.
But what about all that internal chatter?
I know when I attend a multi-day silent retreat, it takes me several days to allow the noise within my heart to settle down. But in my everyday life, I thirst for silence too.
Silence is the pause in me when I am near to God.
Deep breathing. Taking an oxygen break calms me, turns the volume down and helps me slow down to be with God. I breath in silence and expel noise.
[Tweet “Taking an oxygen break calms me, turns the volume down and helps me slow down to be with God. I breath in silence and expel noise.”]
Try whispering instead of talking loud.
Challenge yourself to a day of trying not to talk at all or at least keep it as a minimum. If you can, schedule a time an hour for silence.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.
— Mother Teresa
Try to stay in the present moment – quit planning, reviewing, reliving, and even thinking. This one is hard for me as I tend to overthink all the time…
The silence is there within us. What we have to do is to enter into it, to become silent, to become the silence. The purpose of meditation and the challenge of meditation is to allow ourselves to become silent enough to allow this interior silence to emerge. Silence is the language of the spirit.
— John Mains
Smiling – An Unusual Step to Slow Down to be with God.
I had one of these terrible weeks – disagreements, discontentment and to be honest, depression surrounded my soul. I definitely wasn’t close to God, couldn’t hear him and felt distant and lost.
I drove to work that morning dreading what the day would bring next. I glanced up in the mirror and WHOA – who was that scrawling, ugly, frightening face staring back at me? Yikes, it was me! My whole countenance reflected my sour mood. And it wasn’t a pretty sight!
Sigh! I knew something had to change. I couldn’t arrive at work with this unpleasant look on my face that mirrored the gloom inside my heart.
I decided I needed to smile. Change up my look. At least fake it until I made it.
The pressure to reverse the concrete appearance of my face pressed hard. My skin almost broke open in cracks. I forced a smile.
Hey, that felt better.
I smiled again. Easier this time.
Then I laughed.
My reflection sparkled. I thanked God for this relieving gift and his help and reprieve from the prison of despair. God’s strength surged within me and I know with his help I could face the day.
I learned the lesson that day. Smiling is powerful for affecting my internal mood. Smiling connected me with God. Smiling stopped my crazy downward tumble and restored me. Smiling slowed me down and allowed me to be with God.
Try smiling even when you don’t feel like it and see if it brightens your day. Smile at God. Choose to bloom, not gloom.
Here is one of my favorite definition of prayer:
Look at God
Looking at you…
Anthony de Mello
Sabbath and Seasons for Slowing Down to be with God
Do you practice the Sabbath? Honoring a day of rest?
Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in.
I find too often I squeeze in a little work on Sunday, instead of leaving the computer off, and letting go of my to-do list.
In the season of raising kids, often I planned an hour or so of quiet time for writing in my journal. I find now with the empty nest, I am not that intentional. I know Sabbath is a spiritual practice I need to improve.
Sabbath means to me a day to honor God, listen to him and rest in him.
Sabbath means joy-filled worship, digging deeper into the scriptures, singing and listening to music that stirs and refreshes my soul.
I try – note the word try – to rest from worry, distraction and busyness.
I like the word seasons because there are different times in our life that some things work better and somethings are best let alone. Seasons of work too – times I need to work a few hours on Sabbath as long as it doesn’t become the practice.
Instead of rigid schedule of breaks, I maintain regular rhythms of rest. I seek steady times of slowing down to be with God. I search for recurring and frequent divine moments. Try to turn off the technology and retune into God.
How can you practice Sabbath?
The Practice of Slowing Down.
I have noticed when on my silent retreats, I slow the pace of my walking. I set the fork down more often when I eat. I pause during the meals and just contemplate the view outside the window. My whole being slows down.
Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.
What really struck me the last time on retreat was how slowly I rose from the table.
Instead of bounding to my feet to move I rose gracefully, deliberately and almost gently. A sense of calmness and quiet led my every movement.
We can practice slowing down physically even in our ordinary living. Take our time when we walk. Rise gradually from sitting. Linger longer over a meal. Pause between words. Take a breath before starting the next sentence.
Don’t just speak to God; listen.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46: 10 (NIV)
Six strategies for slowing down to be with God. There is so much more I could write about any of these practices but remember you don’t have to do them all. Take one. Try it. Explore how it fits into your individual style. God is creative and he loves to share his works with us.
In many a piece of music, it’s the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape.
Each day I will share Spiritual Summer School homework: Here is today’s assignment:
- Choose a question from below to talk with God about and listen deeply to where he is guiding you.
- Journal what you think and how you are feeling. Name your emotions as we explore slowing down.
- Don’t forget that each day at 1:30 eastern,(Friday at 9:30 eastern) I will be on Facebook live on my author page, talking about the day’s topic. I hope you can join me live or watch the replay on that same page.
What excuses am I finding to avoid silence and solitude?
How can you practice/honor Sabbath?
Describe the season of life you are in currently.
How could you create a scared space in your home? In your life?
Track and list the spaces you discover in your day. How can you protect and increase them?
Intentionally try to slow down physically. Journal how it worked and felt.
What other strategies can you think of to help you slow down to be with God?
Try the smile experiment, even when you don’t feel like smiling. Notice any changes?
Remember, I compiled a workbook about this series with places to write your thoughts, daily homework space, resources and inspirational quotes. You can get this resource by clicking on the button below:
I have two books that may also help you on this journey:
Spiritual Retreats: Slowing Down to be with God. Right now the e-book version is only 99 cents on Amazon
Today we explored the S in the word SLOW; tomorrow will discover L: Listen to our Language and the Language of God. Please share yesterday and today with your friends and invited them to Spiritual Summer School. Post this on social media and I would love to hear some comments what you are learning so far.
Let me know below how you like this series so far. What thought has resonated most with you? How do YOU slow down to be with God?