A New Beginning in Stillness

Abba Poeman said about Abba Pior, “Everyday he makes a new beginning.”

This New Year’s Day, I ask myself, “What is it that keeps me from making a new beginning, not only of 2018, but of everyday?”

When I stop to analyze my habits and my thoughts, I see some areas that need improvement.

One thing that comes to mind is social media.  There have been a significant number of articles floating around on the internet lately that reveal the detrimental psychological effects of social media, not to mention the spiritual damage that is incurred.

In addition to causing depression and increasing suicidal tendencies, it keeps us distracted and unfocused, making it difficult to produce quality work throughout the day and to keep our minds sharp and able to pray.  Years ago, an abbot told me that a large part of the reason we become bored in church is because our minds have been damaged and over stimulated by social media, the television, radio, etc.   Scientific research is now showing that he was correct.

When is the last time we have spent an hour in silence?  No TV, no smartphone dinging its notifications, no radio in the car.

It seems like if we get a moment — the phone isn’t ringing, the kids are being quiet, there’s no pressing urgent item to work on — we reach for the smartphone or tablet. We look to the electronic device that is literally providing a dopamine hit in our brains and slowly altering it, creating an addictive cycle — the same one cocaine addicts are caught in.

We get that feeling of instant gratification.

But then that ebbs away.

Restlessness, sadness, even a bit of depression takes its place.  This is the cycle that many of us are caught in.  We want that chemical-induced instant gratification.

But what if, instead, we reached for the phone and turned it off?  What if we then picked up our prayer rope or a good book?  It seems that such a little gesture would be all that it takes to begin to break the psychological and spiritual trap we are in.

May God give us the strength and resolve we need to make everyday a new beginning this year.

End Notes: If you want more information about the way social media alters the brain, an online search of “facebook use dopamine” will reveal countless results.

Also, I have a social media account.  It is good for keeping in touch with people.  We just have to be careful about not letting these things invade our devices and minds.  Turning off notifications is one easy way of setting protective boundaries.

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