Monday, January 20, 2014

Episode 21: The (Excruciatingly) Quiet Center

Oh Advent, oh Epiphany, so much room for quiet, thoughtful, reflective, prayer.  The liturgical equivalent to mood-lighting, Advent in particular seems to be a time when candles and shadow laden waiting, stillness and reflective postures are the order of the day.  Don't get me wrong--I love a candle and somber, stoic, silence as much as the next theologically-educated girl.

My ADHD, however, does not love it--not one little bit, not at all.

You see, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a friend of mine. He and I have spent lots of time together. Since childhood ADHD has gifted me with a nervous twitch in my foot and teary eyes anytime I have to sit still for too long. When I see the words "silent reflection" printed in a prayerbook, my inner-pastor thinks "yes, let's do this, let us be still so that we may know God." But the ADHD within me immediately argues--"let me get this straight," ADHD says, "you want me to be still, calm and quiet and you want me to think and be prayerful, at the same time. I don't think so."

Often we privilege the quiet, the stillness, the space without movement and words as somehow more spiritual, more holy, more inherently reflective.

The truth though, for my whole and embodied self, is that when I am asked to be still, it is the stillness, the lack of energy and momentum, that consumes my thoughts.  My brain doesn't find peace in the stillness, my spirit cannot soar when I am consumed by the energy of rest. Silence is not where I find God.

This year I am trying to make space for stillness. I know that it is good and valuable and that there is much to learn in the resistance I feel rising within me anytime I try to pause for a moment. But I also want to celebrate what it is to be gifted with ADHD...ADHD is another way, a beautiful way, to be in touch with the holy. It is jumping from thought to thought, following flights of fancy and pursuing, whole heartedly, energy and enthusiasm.

So...let us be still so that we may know God and
let us run, jump, bounce and follow fleeting thoughts--let us do that too.

(my internal response to a request for silence often looks a bit like this.....)


  1. I'm building up to five minutes of silent meditation. My goal is to do it without looking at the timer every ten seconds. My most focus prayer time is when I am pacing or walking.

  2. People are different. I wish we, as church, could realize that better. The notion that God only can be found in stillness (thank you oh, so much, Elijah) is one that drives people away.
    I read an interesting book called Sacred Pathways (I don't agree with the writers stance on several issues, but the general idea is interesting) which outlines nine different ways to feel close to God, of which the contemplative is but one. I recommend it to anyone who is working with teens, since we often try to force them into one way, our own, otherwise. Has been very helpful for me, to try to think outside my own box.
    There's a "test" along those lines here: