The television. The Internet. Computer games. The telephone. The cell phone. Pounding on the door. Running errands. Church callings. Soccer games. Doctor appointments. The list goes on and on. Today we are bombarded with more input than ever before. Our brains seem about to explode from all the things we must do, places we must go, meals to prepare, dry cleaning to pick up … and then, at the end of the day, we collapse on the couch with barely enough energy to drag ourselves into bed. We read scriptures with the family that morning, and we did get our family prayer said before we sent everyone to bed, but anything beyond that seems impossible.
And yet, we know we need to be able to hear the voice of the Spirit if we are ever to find peace in this world, to receive guidance for our daily activities, to know what choices to make, and to help us on our journey back to Heavenly Father. We need that constant comfort and companionship. How do we block out the sounds of the world so we can hear what is truly a still, small voice?
First, I think it’s important that we minimize the electronic chaos in our lives. We’ve heard it said in general conference that turning off the television and the computer can be crucial in allowing room for the Spirit. We obtain a lot of good from the Internet – we can study, read scriptures, find conference talks, do genealogy – but when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the games and the chat rooms, we spend more time on useless entertainment than we do in feeding our souls.
Second, we can take a few minutes first thing in the morning to go to our knees and ask Heavenly Father to guide our day. Johnny might need a ride to school and Sally can’t find her shoes, so time might be tight, but we can always fit in a few seconds to ask our Father, who loves us infinitely, to be with us. Later, after the ride is given and the shoe crisis is averted, we can focus on our scriptures or other uplifting activities, but we’ve gotten our day off to a good start. It’s okay to speed-pray … I’ve done it before and never felt chastised for it.
Third, we can make our spiritual nourishment a higher priority. Yes, we may have company coming in an hour, but wouldn’t they rather visit with someone who is centered and calm than with someone who is frazzled from running around the house, scrubbing and trying to make everything perfect? And if they are the kind of person who would rather sit in a spotless house than care about your stress levels, why are you letting them in your house?
Fourth, I’m a big believer in the parent time-out. This is where the mom or dad just goes in their room and closes the door. They can leave an older child in charge, or they can wait until their spouse comes home, but they shut out the distraction of the rest of the household and be by themselves for a little while. Sometimes it’s easy to find balance, and other times, it takes an hour, but as couples communicate their needs with each other, and take turns to cool off as necessary, they will find they are much more able to listen to those inner feelings and be guided toward making the right choices.
Fifth, we can involve our children in our search for peace and calm. We can make it a learning activity. Start by playing them loud music, and then play them soft music. Ask how each makes them feel. Explain that we like the feelings in our hearts when things around us are softer. Help them identify the feelings that they have when they are playing nicely together as compared to the feelings they have when they are fighting, and talk about how they would rather feel all the time.
Last, we can take the moments we do have and make the most of them. When I go to pick up my daughter from seminary, I often find that I have five minutes of quiet before the bell rings. I like to close my eyes, breathe deeply, and try to center myself again. In those quiet moments, inspiration comes and helps me with ideas for the rest of the day.
Above all, never quit trying. The Lord is aware of our hectic schedules and He knows we don’t always have the opportunity to come to Him in private. He will listen to us while we drive down the freeway, while we grocery shop … any time we think to speak to Him, He will listen. And then He’ll take advantage of the first quiet moment we get to answer us. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.