The Spiritual Practice of Saying “No”
By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.
Since “time,” or lack thereof, seems to be the nemesis of spiritual deepening, wrestling with it for another blog seemed like a good idea.
With our busy lives, and I hear people of all ages, stages, and locations talk about how busy they are. I often hear, “I felt so good when I was taking time to meditate, but then I just didn’t have time to keep it up.” Or “How do I find time to pray?”
I’ve asked myself these questions scores of times.
About 15 years ago I realized I was sick of hearing myself say I didn’t have time. I was tired of knowing I was a better me when I meditated and made space for the Spirit, but I often ran around my day without pause or time to deepen my spiritual practice. I didn’t have any empty pockets in my day.
I knew I wanted to change this, but I was so busy with young children, a full-time job, volunteering, a spouse, friends, family, a house, etc.!
I finally realized I needed to start the spiritual practice of saying, “no.” I needed to be proactive. So, I took it on like a spiritual discipline.
It was hard! How could I say no to volunteering with the county in the anti child abuse program? How could I say no to hosting Thanksgiving? How could I say no to being on that school committee?
It took years of practice and discipline, but I am finally able to (usually) take an opportunity into prayer and if the answer is no, I can now say no.
I don’t just say no to everything. It’s about discernment. I listen to what I’m called to do as opposed to doing something just because it is a good cause.
Saying no allows me to have quiet, empty places in my life, in my day, where I can sit with God. It allows me to not just bowl through my to-do list, but savor moments and quench my thirst with the quiet.
How do you make space for the Spirit in your day? Do you yearn for it?