It’s one of those words that I would read in new age, self-help books or hear in sermons and not ever really understand. With all the terminology in the genre, how was I really supposed to wrap my head around the idea of my “calling.”

It wasn’t quite purpose. It wasn’t quite destiny. It wasn’t quite fate. And so when I reached out to my pastor to talk about where I felt I was headed, I asked him: What is a “calling” and how do you know when you’ve found it?

Ok, in full-disclosure, I didn’t ask him in those words. I actually asked him in the middle of a full on panic while popping peppermint candies because at the time someone had told me the mint could calm you (false).

While on my self-induced sugar rush and in the midst of my anxiety attack. I went in for pastoral hours at our church and laid out my crisis. I was out of undergrad, I had not heard back from the graduate program I wanted to hear from the most. And so selfishly, I was sitting in his office for the first time wanting guidance but mainly hoping for a divine intervention where God would see my effort and sprinkle down some good karma magic dust on my life.

Not that I’m proud of it, but we’re all guilty of this. Running to for spiritual help when our life seems to go into meltdown mode. For many of us it’s just a reflex to turn to faith when we feel fear.

My pastor didn’t give me a lead on getting any of that good karma magic dust, instead he gave me some simple advice: be still and listen.

This week, I thought about that advice when I cam across a new study that looked out how fear changes what we hear. Neuroscientists Jennifer Resnik, Noam Sobel and Rony Paz examined the different types of learning humans experience and why we glean understanding from some experiences and not others.

In TIME’s summary of the study, Maia Szalavitz writes:

The new research,sought to explore…fear and its connection with learning. Emotional experience typically improves learning — that’s why you remember your first love better than first grade.  But in the case of fear, the brain seems to say “better safe than sorry.” Rather than fine-tuning the connections you make while under the influence of emotion, fear instead reduces your ability to discriminate between potential threats, impairing learning about them…Fear changes not only our reactions to experiences, but also our perceptions of the world itself.

I wish I could tell you I’ve heard my calling and gotten it down pat, but the truth is I have only heard whispers of mine. But what I do know for sure is that my pastor’s simple advice is the best anecdote to quelling threats, deafening fear and hearing your purpose out loud.

Today, don’t let the noise of fear drown out the sound of your calling. Be still and listen, if only for a whisper.

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