‘IF’: Possibly the Biggest Small Word There is!

The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.

I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St. Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all, I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.

Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.

IT’S A NEW DAWN, IT’S A NEW DAY! 5 Tips to Color Your Summer with Music

GUEST BLOGGER UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT SOPHOMORE MADDIE BYER
Every year when summer is on its way, there is a unique energy in the air. We all feel it—it’s what makes us dream of palm branches swaying in the breeze, or cold margaritas condensing by the beach. Summer is a time to be upbeat and happy. It’s a time to discover new things about ourselves while things are a little slower, calmer, and less chaotic. This is the time to embrace lots of different levels of happy feelings. It’s my own personal belief that nothing quite sets the mood like good music. Music speaks to us in lots of different ways if we let it. Here are some tips on how to color your summer with music!
1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Summer marks the start of new adventures. That said, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to music. Go see a concert by a band that you’ve never heard of! Outdoor concerts especially can be amazing experiences. Support local musicians when they play at venues near you! This goes for genres as well. Always been a rock and roll kind of person? Maybe try mixing it up with some pop or electronic. Never listen to anything but dance music? You might be surprised by how appealing jazz can sound when you’re relaxing by the pool or reading a good book underneath a tree. Is there a genre that you’ve always hated? Maybe revisit it. Don’t be afraid to give new music a chance because there’s nothing more refreshing than discovering a new favorite song that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard or liked before.
2. Mix up your genres. Speaking of refreshing, variety is always a good thing. There are lots of different moods associated with summer. Some days are chill and breezy, while others are wild and crazy. You can reflect this through music by switching up your genres. Taking a long drive through some country roads? Find some fun country music to listen to! Having lots of people over and serving up some drinks? Have a dance or hip-hop playlist ready! Feeling nostalgic about happy summer memories or spending some time alone outside? Turn on some of your favorite classics!
3. Listen to international music. If you only listen to Western music, you are seriously limiting yourself. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been thoroughly charmed by 2017 Latin pop on the charts, and good news! There’s lots more like this. Latino pop is a favorite among Americans, but it’s not just Latino music that can give off such a warm, summery vibe. There’s French, African, Chinese, you name it!
4. Happy lyrics will make you happier. Lyrics are a really important aspect of music. If you’re on your way to the beach and a break-up song comes on the radio, that may not be the best way to prep yourself for some summer fun. Find something that makes you feel cheerful and excited! Think of the classic lyric, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good.” This is the kind of mood you want to be in during your relaxing months of summer.
5. Don’t just listen to music during big moments. Everyone listens to music while they go dancing at the bar, or when they go to a summer concert. These are great times to listen to music, but try to extend yourself beyond this. All the time is a great time to jam to some music. Listen to a fun song, like Thunder by Imagine Dragons, while you’re doing some cleaning or getting ready for an event. If you wake up in a bad mood, throw on some happy music! Find some upbeat music to listen to even during those boring car rides to work or the grocery store. You may just find yourself starting to feel happier overall!