Faith Matters: ‘Glimmer moments’ can be found everywhere: The importance of finding and sharing moments of joy, peace and safety

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas outside the Sunderland Congregational Church.

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas outside the Sunderland Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


Interfaith minister

Published: 05-10-2024 3:12 PM

Have you heard of “glimmer moments?” I thought this was something cutesy that someone made up, but after doing research, I learned that it is actually a scientific term.

The phrase “glimmer moments” was created by psychotherapist Deb Dana in an attempt to make the complex polyvagal theory more understandable to the general public. Polyvagal theory is a collection of ideas about how the vagus nerve affects both “fight or flight” as well as “rest and digest” responses in our lives). Glimmer moments are positive experiences that can calm us during difficult times. The opposite of triggers, glimmers help us to be calm, peaceful and joyful.

Glimmers are tiny moments of goodness and loving kindness that help us have a joy-filled heart. The good news is we can train ourselves to not only find glimmers in our daily life but make them a practice when the world becomes crazy.

As a young teen in the 1970s, I wondered if Jesus was ever joyful. I had only seen pictures of him where he either was dying or very serious. Then one day, I saw a painting created by Willis Wheatley, of the United Church of Canada, entitled, “Laughing Jesus.” My heart sang when I saw the face of Jesus that I had only ever imagined in my head.

Since then, many artists have created such images. I have one of Jesus laughing with children. Every time I look at it, I smile. Finding it was a glimmer moment.

Glimmers can be found everywhere. They are the things that almost instantly cause us to associate times in our lives when we felt safe and secure, just as triggers cause us to feel afraid or threatened.

Examples of glimmers are the smell of cookies baking, the feeling of a very soft cuddly blanket wrapped around us, swinging on a swing in the yard or rocking on the porch. Animals are amazing glimmer-givers. I know that for me, watching the birds flying around our yard, listening to the doves coo and knowing that our yard is home to chipmunks that eat at our feet, possums that eat the ticks that could infect us, raccoons that tumble and play in the yard, a fox who wanders by the trail camera from time to time and a host of other critters brings me great joy.

A point to remember, however, is that what is a glimmer for you may not be for another person, so no judgments here. I have had friends who are deathly afraid of birds or cats or other animals.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Greenfield restaurant to be featured on America’s Best Restaurants
Where the food is smokin’ good: Crazy Horse Bar and Grill in Charlemont serves up pub food and more with flair
Greenfield’s Asa Bouchard competing for Team USA in Prospects by Sports Illustrated Hockey World Cup
GCC union votes ‘no confidence’ in president, provost
Retired Montague officer, state trooper commended for 2022 fire response
Franklin Tech hires aviation instructor

Therefore, sitting in my yard and watching the birds land close to us, or seeing chipmunks jump out from behind a bush and run over our feet would terrify them. While I would be basking in joy, their triggers would be going off like cannon balls.

In addition, it is good to remember that gratitude is an important way to find glimmers. Author Amy Collette wrote, “Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights the fire of joy in your soul.”

Making gratitude a practice. Giving thanks to the Maker of All for the little things, like finding a parking space, getting through a difficult intersection, waking up in the morning, eating, seeing something beautiful, and at the end of the day, can change our brain, literally. Gratitude, over time, changes our brain circuits to reduce the impact of negative emotions and increase our sense of well-being.

Don’t get me wrong here. Gratitude is not a miracle cure for what ails you. You don’t get cured of your illness by being joy-filled. But you do have the strength to move through your days with grace and joy.

Neurologist Debasish Mridha has an acute understanding of what joy does for us neurologically. He wrote, “A moment of kindness can fill your heart with infinite joy.”

Infinite! As in never ending! A single moment of kindness can set off a blaze of glimmers that stays with us forever.

One of the things about moments of kindness that resonates with me is that they cost us nothing. They are simple and soothing; they only take time. A smile, a gentle touch, holding the door, aiding an elderly person, waving to a neighbor, saying hello to a stranger … these are all moments of kindness or, if you will, glimmer-makers. These moments can be so profound to the receiver that it can actually save or change their lives.

Being a glimmer-maker can change our world. We simply need to take the time to be quiet, to contemplate life and to take stock of the glimmers that have touched us.

Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas is an ordained interfaith minister. She graduated from The New Seminary in New York City. She often fills the pulpit in local Franklin County Churches. She maintains an international, online ministry through Facebook.