We’ve all heard and experienced the saying: “Sometimes it’s the stupid little stuff that causes us the most problems.” The corollary to this is that sometimes it’s the small stuff that can help the most. As much as smart phones bother me due to the decrease of face to face communications over the years sometimes they come in handy. I remember an app (it’s free!) that I added not long after I obtained my first cell phone: The Mindfulness Bell. It’s the sound of a brass bowl being struck and the chime continues for several seconds before becoming faint enough that the sound is no longer within the range of our hearing.
I got the app because when I learned contemplative prayer, the monk who taught it used a bowl or a small chime or bell as a way of refocusing our attention from our thoughts to the empty space in our minds where the Presence of God lives. The sound breaks into our attention pulling us into itself as the sound decreases and our mind follows into silence—the place where spiritual union and healing happens. Over the years it has become a very powerful tool for me. I go through periods of forgetting it until I hear the chime once more and my attention is interrupted and my mind instinctively over all these years attunes to the sound and follows it into silence where my emotions and mind are made still, being transported into the Peace of the Holy One. The origin of church bells was for the same purpose, to stop the people form what they were doing to focus on God until somewhere along the line they became a signal telling us when church was going to begin.
There is a timer on the app and I usually like to set it for one chime every ten minutes. One minute out of ten I attempt to stop what I am doing and then listen to the sound as it fades into silence—the place where we can hear God speak. I allow myself to be interrupted—it’s not always easy to break through the inertia of where my mind is and what’s its doing to follow the sound. But it is good training to be able to practice “letting go” of what my mind wants to hold on to in order to give priority to God.
Sometimes my mind tugs at holding on to the thought or activity not wanting to let it go. With continued practice I win and the restlessness loses.
We talk about time, talent and treasure in stewardship. This tithing of my time for an hour, every tenth minute brings me back to what’s most important. The presence I receive from doing so is so deep I cannot explain it to you.
Of course a real chime or bowl would be better than the phone. But the phone I can set on a timer every 10 minutes which is very convenient as it always breaks into the state of where my mind is at the time. At first it will be irritating. Our minds don’t like being interrupted. This tells us something right there. Of course in the long run we want to get to the place where we allow that peace that passes all understanding for the full ten minutes before the bell goes off again. But we only get there by being here. It reminds me of an old Virginia saying I learned the first week I was in seminary: “You cain’t get they-uh from here-uh.” But indeed, by being “here-uh” God takes us “they-uh.” And “they-uh” becomes “here-uh.” Eternal life in the moment.
May the Holy Spirit ring your chimes.