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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

Serenity: a personal reflection

By Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

Serenity, stillness, peace, or kaaliwalasan ng panahon. Can these words apply to at least part of your life? Finding moments of quiet and stillness can be very rare for some. Even sleep can be racked with troubled dreams and awakenings in the middle of the night.

Our society leaves us with the impression that we must do more, work faster, obtain more money, look a certain way, and live a certain lifestyle in order to feel that we are good enough. We hear these messages at school, work, in movies, books, commercials, and social media sites.

But what if you were to stop your life for a few moments to reflect, be still, and grow your relationship with God? Chances are you would be grateful for what you have and find peace and contentment.

Very recently, I had an opportunity to go on a silent retreat and experience 40 hours of silence and stillness. I must admit however, that I was a reluctant participant at first. Used to living my life by the hour, the thought of not having a structured and planned day was very uncomfortable. Participants were given a schedule that was basically comprised of meal times and appointments with our spiritual directors. I grew anxious, having thoughts of, “What do you mean I have nothing planned for almost two days? What on Earth will I do? I could be at home or work being more productive. Will I be okay with being silent?”

But truly I tell you; it was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

Armed with only a bible and journal, I had my own solitary room, a monastery to make my temporary home, and the grounds to explore. Never before in my life had I read biblical passages as slowly and contemplatively as I did. With no rush, nowhere to go, no list of tasks to check off, no meals to prepare, no family to care for, I received the gift of time. I wrote pages in my journal, mostly around the theme of wanting to know that I was on the right path in life. The only times I spoke were with my spiritual director who granted me the gift of presence. She truly heard what I had to say and sat with me as I came to the realization that I did not have to have my life planned out perfectly.

Prior to this experience, I was sure that I was not an outdoors person, usually shying away from camping, days at the beach, snowboarding or skating, or even long walks. At the start of the retreat, I challenged myself to go outside at least once. By the end of the retreat, I had gone on three 40-minute walks. Alone. Through the woods. Along a river. Inside a cemetery. In below zero temperatures while it was snowing and windy.

And I loved it.

I marvelled at the silently moving waters of the river. I saw beauty in the frozen branches of trees and heard the call of birds and wondered where they were going. I experienced emotions of deep sorrow, calm, and absolute joy – at one point all within the span of 15 minutes. There was a profound quiet that I had never known before and by the morning of the last day, I did not want to leave just yet. I missed my family but loved the feeling of being rested. No racing thoughts. No worries about forgetting something or letting someone down. I left that experience feeling loved.

Although such a long period of time away from your regular life may not be a possibility, there are moments of peace that you can find throughout the day. Perhaps when you eat a meal, you can focus on the taste and savour each bite. When you hug a loved one, you can pay attention to the happiness that you feel and be thankful. When someone confides in you, you can truly listen to their words and think about what they are feeling, rather than plan what you will say in response. When you wash dishes, shut off your thoughts and pay attention to the feel and temperature of the running water. Turn off all technology, the TV, phones, Internet, and simply sit in quiet. While listening to music, close your eyes and focus on the instruments and the lyrics. When feeling stressed, find a quiet place to stop and breathe.

Give yourself the gift of being in the moment.

With the upcoming Christmas season fast approaching, I wish you and yours a happy and joyful holiday season filled with love and laughter, mixed in with moments of stillness and quiet reflection.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is the founder of Nexus Counselling and a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. She is a proud member of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council and a provider for the Blue Cross Employee Assistance Program. Cheryl has experience helping clients with issues such as grief, depression, relationship difficulties, parenting, aging and illness. She can be reached at (204) 297-6744 or