Finding that Still Small Voice

Finding that Still Small Voice

It’s a noisy world with lots of stressors wanting our attention, but there is a still small voice longing to be heard, so quiet yourself and listen.

I have a pendulum clock on a bookshelf near me.

Yesterday, I noticed the pendulum was swinging back and forth freely, but now it’s barely moving.

The only sound I can hear is a little ‘click’ sound coming from it.

In the background, a car passes by, an early bird Tui makes a small announcement to the day.

But is there silence in my brain?

Thoughts whirl. The usual ones.

My pendulum thoughts have begun to swing for another day.

Have you ever simply stopped and noticed the thoughts that seem to dominate the playground of your mind?

Some thoughts you have are so familiar that they have dug thinking tracks deep and wide into the physical networks of your brain.

In the noise, I long for a still, small voice.

A still, small voice.

For a man by the name of Elijah, there was so much noise in his life that he wanted to die. The noise was crushing him.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 

Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ 

Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ 1 Kings 19:1-4

He had done what God had asked of him and now powerful people were hunting him down. He was on the run. His pendulum brain was racing him into exhaustion.

He prayed the prayer that many people who come to this website pray ‘God, take away my life.’

The noise of life, the noise of worry, fear, and the noise of comparisonitis to his ancestors was sitting upon him like a heavy stone.

No human could handle all that. Elijah, like us, wasn’t a super hero.

Put anyone of us under enough stress and fragility will be found.

Even Jesus sweat blood with the pendulum noise of fear about the crucifixion smashing in his fully human yet fully divine brain.

Under all that pendulum noise and heaviness, a human’s ability to cope shifts.

A sound of sheer silence. 

Elijah goes to a cave and meets with God, who invites him to listen.

‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord,
but the Lord was not in the wind;

and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;

and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 1 Kings 19:11-12

Elijah’s pendulum brain noise is still swinging, but maybe less so now because its attention has been caught by the sound of silence. 

Silence can be frightening, especially to the brain that is constantly on the move. Always busy, always things to do, but to slow down and focus on quiet is a skill.

A whisper is heard.

Someone whispers something into your ear. It’s personal, only for you to hear, and it takes all your concentration and focus to hear the words.

A thin whisper

In the Hebrew, that these verses were originally written in, the word for still is demamah.

This is a feminine noun that describes a whisper.

It is only used three times in the Bible

Elijah hears the demamah.

and after the fire a still (demamah) small voice.

Job hears the demamah.

A form was before my eyes;
    there was silence (demamah), then I heard a voice Job 4:16

The Psalmist sings of the still small voice

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper (demamah);
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,

    and he guided them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30

It seems that on the other side of noise, confusion, and distress is the invitation to a whispert.

Finding the whisper

Some will find this more difficult than others, but with practice, it can become an exercise of grounding, of centeredness.

  1. Give yourself the gift of a few minutes.
    Begin with a minute, then extend as you grow more comfortable with this practice.
  2. Find a safe place
    A place and time where you know you won’t be interrupted. That you will be able to relax fully into as much as possible.
  3. Sit or lie in comfort.
    Quietly rest your body in whatever position you feel most comfortable in.
  4. Close your eyes
    The eyes provide a lot of information to your brain to process. Close them off gently and quietly, knowing it will be ok and safe.
  5. Notice your breathing
    Notice your breath. Slow your breath and feel the quiet, deep inhalations and exhalations.
  6. Say a word.
    A favourite word that comes to your mind. I have the word ‘Guide’ coming to visit my soul as I practice this exercise at the moment. But it could also be words such as Love, Grace, Peace, Hope, Jesus, Spirit, Father/ Mother.
  7. See your pendulum slowing down
    See a pendulum in your brain. Notice it slowing down as you breathe in and out.
  8. Quietly enjoy the whisper.

Perhaps you might find this difficult, especially so if you have Attention Deficit Disorders, etc.

Have something tactile in your hands, such as a squishy ball as you say the words and slow your breath.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is an invitation for you to sit quietly and focus. For you to listen for that still small voice.

There is never a reason in Spiritual Formation to compare yourself with others. You are you and that’s truer than true.

 

It’s a noisy world with lots of stressors wanting our attention, but there is a still small voice longing to be heard, so quiet yourself and listen.

Quotes to consider

  • God wishes to cure us of two kinds of sickness: impatience and despair. Julian of Norwich
  • All shall be well, and
    All manner of thing shall be well. Julian of Norwich
  • It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brother and sister. Thomas Merton
  • Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences; all events are blessings given to us to learn from. There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even your bathtub. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
  • What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility. Rick Hanson
  • We can identify a spiritual truth by two criteria. First, it is infinitely simple. Second, it is infinitely difficult. This is the nature of stillness and silence. Amos Smith
  • The self must know stillness before it can discover its true song. Ralph Brum
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • I used to think anxiety and insomnia drove me to success, but it was the stillness that let me be good at anything. When you extend the seconds of stillness, that’s when you’re able to think and learn. Russell Simmons
  • Real transformation seldom comes simply from reading a book or listening to a lecture. It requires the fertile place of solitude and stillness. It demands the openness of heart and mind that can only be given when space is created for whatever measure of stillness we can receive from God and are then prepared to offer back to God as our gift. David Benner.

Questions to Answer

  1. What are the ‘noises’ in your world?
  2. What makes a place safe and secure for you?
  3. Silence can be scarey for some people. Why would that be?

Formation Exercise

  • Practice the experience of listening for the whisper. Email me what you learned and discovered.

Further reading

Questions and Answers about Mindfulness

How to Grow the Practice of Stillness for your Mental Health

Slowing the Pendulum of your Thoughts 

Comparisonitis – The Compulsion to Compare Yourself

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

 

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