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The pause that empowers

From the January 6, 2020 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

In the last few months of 2019, the world again generously offered a stage for protests and demonstrations on issues ranging from climate and economic inequality to a stagnating middle class and suppression of democracy. From protests in Lebanon and continuing unrest in Hong Kong to the “yellow vest” movement in France and the Extinction Rebellion, hardly an area of the world remains untouched. The common story? Something must change, even if what that is or how to go about it isn’t clear.

At the heart of these actions lies discontent—we feel powerless and threatened, and so we seek recognition and control. Yet even as the demonstrations raise awareness, a prevalence of protests is no guarantee of lasting change. So, what next? Once we become aware of an issue, what do we do about it?

In one of my first jobs, my human rights colleagues and I regularly staged protests in our city for one cause or another. Yet when asked what we hoped to achieve, our answers were often vague and overly lofty. In essence, what we wanted most was for others to awaken and begin to care, whether for the planet or each other. Our deep desire was to see individuals reach out and connect, with compassion and caring that would result in changing society. 

Innovation, change, and progress happen as a result of thought changing. Human actions may contribute to this change—but the ultimate shift must be mental. When thinking is primarily focused on abstract issues needing to be solved out there in the world, it can be difficult to know where to begin. But every outward change is the result of what happens first within hearts and minds. 

November 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember the day well. I also remember well a talk I heard shortly after by a woman who’d lived in East Germany. She talked about praying for unification every day for ten years straight. Her persistence struck me. I couldn’t quite conceive of it. 

When I asked her what kept her going all that time without seeing any outward evidence of change, she said something I’ll never forget: The wall came down in a moment. But it wasn’t the work of a moment. It was the result of all the moments leading up to the instant that thought changed. And what do you think changes thought? 

She said that every time she paused, quieted her thoughts, and turned them toward God, she could feel a shift happening in her consciousness. She was gaining a more spiritual view of God’s irresistible power and unwavering presence right where division seemed so entrenched. This kept her going. 

In spiritual stillness, thought aligns itself “intelligently with God.”

Revolutionary writings by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, outline a model for change: “The best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth, is stationary power, stillness, and strength; and when this spiritual ideal is made our own, it becomes the model for human action” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 93). 

There’s an irony to this—that stillness is the model for human action. What does this mean for us? Often, when we identify a problem, the first response is to want to do something. But sometimes the best thing to do is to be still and feel divine presence. 

Christ Jesus has been a model for me regarding stillness. With a mob surrounding him ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, he stayed still, physically making himself small and silent, stooping to write on the ground. After some moments of quiet while they persisted in their demands, he simply made a statement that changed the thought of everyone there: Those of you without sin can cast the first stone. And one by one the woman’s accusers left, until the whole crowd had dispersed (see John 8:3–11).

Stillness is not stasis, passivity, inertia, or stagnation. True quietness has a vibrancy as its essence. In spiritual stillness, thought aligns itself “intelligently with God” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 107). Christian Science defines God as divine Mind. This Mind gives us ideas, and when we yield up our own limited conceptions to them, these ideas do the work to shift consciousness and change how we think. 

Pausing to consider God, who is unchanging divine goodness, is consistent with Paul’s explanation to the Corinthians “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (II Corinthians 4:7). In this spiritual excellence, we see there’s no longer any need for change. Spiritual reality includes all the goodness, peace, and love needed to see the completeness of divine creation.  

Awareness of this precludes our feeling any urgency stemming from angst, strain, nervousness, fatigue, or turmoil. Action proceeding from divine presence is not motivated by fear or self-will, and when we are completely aligned with this presence, we realize that it is all there is, and it is all we can feel in that moment. This allness is our surest reference point for living. Action for change, when premised on this divine allness, acknowledges the spiritual completeness and wholeness that God, divine presence, is showing to humanity, and action proceeds from this assurance. Each time we pause to see spiritually, this shift in thought chips away at the mental blocks trying to continually divide humanity. 

Science and Health states, “Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause,—wait on God” (p. 323). Pausing and waiting on God, divine Mind, we see the ideas of this Mind at work now in human consciousness. Being still, as the first step toward action, aligns us with the presence of Mind that helps us look beyond immediate situations of conflict to see how God is already present. And this is what assures us of a bright year ahead.

Larissa Snorek
Associate Editor

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