By Chris D’Souza
“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.’”
Mk 6:31 (RSVCE)
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Recently, my wife returned from Orlando after attending a Zumba® instructor convention. Naturally, I asked her if she enjoyed it. Her response was puzzling” “Yes it was exciting, five full days of over-stimulation. I’m exhausted!”
Over-stimulation. That word has been playing on my mind ever since. It set me thinking… much of today’s entertainment is designed to over-stimulate. Can we not enjoy the ordinary, simple moments of our everyday lives without looking for one stimulating event after another to sustain us?
A couple of years ago, while giving my 6-year-old son a bath, I found myself lecturing him on how not to act silly in the bathroom. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “Daddy, does everything always have to be serious? Can’t we just relax and have a little fun?”
His words resonated with my earlier thoughts about the need to loosen up, enjoy and live in the present moment.
A coping strategy
Life is tough. We need to deal with its rough edges and challenges. So we desperately try to cram it with stimulating experiences. Perhaps we do it to numb the pain in our hearts or to avoid the fears we encounter.
Could it be that in today’s fast-paced lifestyle, being constantly surrounded by people, we are afraid to come face-to-face with ourselves and the person we will find there? In order to avoid this self-confrontation, we would rather fill every waking moment doing anything and everything that helps us avoid spending time with ourselves.
We can also fool ourselves by getting our calendar crammed with perceived urgent activities. We forget that simple tasks can become important ones when done for the glory of God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Col 3:23).
Riding adrenaline highs
Today we indulge in all kinds of stimulating experiences to ride an adrenaline high. But guess what? The high is temporary, addictive and even damaging to our health. Stress management experts warn that the continuous secretion of stress hormones ages us faster and opens the door to a host of stress-related illnesses.
In the absence of internal satisfaction, we crave external forms of over-stimulation. This inner void, coupled with a shaky self-image, makes us sitting ducks for the advertising industry that knows our weakness so well. And they successfully capitalize on this knowledge.
I guess the Zumba® convention was designed to over-stimulate -- perhaps with good reason, given the nature and duration of the program. But we need to turn inward and ask ourselves: Are we addicted to getting ourselves continually entertained and stimulated?
Hidden danger zones
When frantic lifestyles spill over into our Christian circles and fellowships, we can be led into hidden danger zones.
If we are unable to capture the beauty of our simple moments, we will be missing some of God’s most beautiful gifts to us. It is in these simple moments that we may find the elusive peace that we are so desperately searching for. In Isaiah 30:15 we read: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.”
Giving God room
When our minds and hearts are still, we give God room to operate -- to hear His “still small voice” just as Elijah did (1 Kings 19:12).
Jesus instructs us to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk 12:30). A tall order indeed! How are we supposed to love Him with our entire being when our minds are over-stimulated, our spirits parched and our bodies exhausted?
Time invested with God will bring about a shift in our paradigm of life and a vision better-aligned with God’s own. With this vision, we will be able to enjoy the present moment and will appreciate how solitude gives us opportunities to commune with Him.
It is in this communion that we will find real rest and peace. The Psalmist tells us: “He makes me lie down in green pastures….He restores my soul” (Ps 23: 1-3). Jesus told his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (Mk 6:31).
In each God-given moment of life we have a choice: Will we heed His voice and “rest awhile,” savoring the grace and beauty of the present moment? Or would we rather over-stimulate ourselves with frantic experiences until we just come apart?
Prayer: Help me Lord, to regularly dip into the rest and peace that only you can provide. Let me never attempt to satisfy myself with worldly stimulation to fill a void that only you can satisfy.
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Chris is an executive and life coach, talent consultant and trainer with 20+ years of corporate experience. He is vice-president of God is in Control fellowship, a Catholic workplace ministry in Bangalore, India. He has co-authored “Good Fathers to Great Dads,” a faith-based resource for dads which emphasizes a relational approach to fatherhood. He has had professional roles at Citibank, HCL Technologies and IBM. Besides managing his independent consulting practice, he is Director at Lead Strategic Pvt. Ltd, a leadership transformation consulting organization. He lives in Bangalore and can be contacted at email@example.com