I recall a time when I could not be in my house without having noise. Usually, I’d come home from work and turn the television on. Not to watch it, but to have the background noise. To have silence felt deafening and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with my own thoughts, which could simultaneously be headed in a hundred different directions and reminding me of the ways I needed to do better, do more. I can recall visiting my mom’s house and there was no television, no music, nothing. Silence. It felt oppressive.
Over time, the balance has shifted and now, my preference is quiet. In a way, it’s a chance for my mind to stop being over stimulated. Which, let’s be honest, happens to each of us every single day. If we’re not listening to something, we’re viewing. Our phones provide non-stop entertainment and options. Literally, every second we’re awake we can be occupied somewhere other than within our own mind.
There are days where that’s honestly the preferred alternative. Our thoughts meander in a million directions and being alone with ourselves can be intimidating.
The advantages to being still are immense. Consider a few: increased immune function; lowered blood pressure; lowered heart rate; increased awareness; increased attention and focus; increased clarity in thinking and perception; lowered anxiety levels, the list goes on. If we know the benefits are there, why are so many of us resistant? Seriously, I desire to be still, to be mindful, but I have to consciously focus to simply eat breakfast without simultaneously checking my email. Mind you, not if someone is sitting across from me, but if I’m alone, multi-task is the name of the game.
Except that multitasking is a scam. Held out as a skill, it’s virtually impossible to effectively multi-task. Our attention is not fully with either task, not our best work. So why do so many of us continue to juggle so many balls in the air? Wouldn’t it be better if we narrowed in on one thing at a time?
Be still. Several times within the Bible we’re told to Be Still. It’s as though we’re being told to ‘take a breath,’ ‘slow down,’ a command to remind us that God’s got us. If we don’t take time to be still, we miss that. Our own thoughts, activities, drown out the inner stillness that comes from being alone with God. Alone with ourselves. With our dreams, with our desires. We miss connecting with that part of ourselves because we’re busy. Miss the still small voice of God because we’re busy all…the…time.
Over the last few years, I’ve consciously begun practicing stillness. And you know what? I love it. Love being alone with myself. Not because I don’t want to be with other people, but because I like being alone. Later today, I’m headed to a one-day women’s retreat held a few hours from my home. I chose to come over a day early so that I could have alone time. Could take a breath and be still. I’ve gone away for an alone weekend each year for the last few and have found it restorative. It’s becoming easier each year to not overpack the time. And as much as I’d like to relax at home, and I do, it’s not the same. When I’m away, it’s out of my environment. There are no floors to mop, dishes to clean. The regular distractions are removed.
Later today I’ll connect with other women, but last night and at the moment, I’m in the presence of no one I know. Other than ordering coffee, because…honestly…coffee is necessary…I haven’t talked to anyone today. It’s a chance to take a breath. Slow down and be alone with me, with God. I find clarity in the stillness because the cobwebs in my head are brushed away.
If you haven’t incorporated a practice in your life to be still, to silence your mind for moments during the day, try it. It can be as simple as focusing on a word, saying it silently to yourself as you breath slowly and close your eyes. Or it can be focusing on a symbol an object you love and letting your eyes rest on it, breathing in the beauty. Being still. Each of us could afford a few moments in the day to be still and connect with ourselves. You’ll find when you do, the inner connection will carry with you through the day. Take a breath friends, listen to the still small voice and know, you’ve got this.