Stillness. What is it and how do you do it?
We live in a world of hurry. We have what John Mark Comer in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurrycalls “Hurry Sickness.”
The symptoms of hurry sickness include (but are not limited to):
- Non-stop activity
- Emotional numbness
- Out of order priorities
- Lack of care for the body
- Escapist behaviors
- Neglect of spiritual practices/disciplines
To many stillness connotes laziness or idleness. But, stillness is a necessity. Our bodies, minds, and souls need rest—rest from noise, from people, and activity. But how do we begin cultivating stillness in our lives? And how do we do so without feeling the pangs of guilt often associated with the idea of rest?
Over the next three weeks we will explore three things that I believe help establish a routine of stillness in our lives. These three elements of stillness may be uncomfortable for many of you, but I believe in the long run, establishing these routines will be life giving.
One of the first areas of stillness we need to become comfortable with is silence.
That’s right, we must learn to enjoy, long for, and embrace quiet.
There are two types of silence—external and internal. To cultivate external silence is simple. Stop talking. Silence the cell phone. Silence the radio. Separate yourself from anything or anyone that makes noise. External silence, for the most part can be easily controlled; we must simply be discipled to practice.
However, the opposite is true of internal silence. I don’t know about you, but when I begin to get quiet and embrace silence, my mind begins to race. I think of things I forgot to do. My thoughts, in fact, get out of control as my mind swirls from one thing to the next. So, we must intentionally “turn off” the musings of our minds, focusing our attentions on the Lord.
Silence provides hope, rest, and peace. Silence is the space that allows our mind, body, and soul to slowdown from the swirl of thoughts that produce constant activity in our brains. We must learn to nurture the silence by stopping the madness! Instead of allowing the mindless chatter of the inner voices within rule our thoughts, let’s instead listen to the still, small voice of our Father.
Psalm 62:5-7 says,
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Quiet is a refuge, a place of protection, a place of hope. But it takes practice because our world is anything but silent. Perhaps this prayer exercise will help you quiet your mind and focus your attention on the Lord today.
During this prayer exercise when you find that your mind is racing, simply try to quiet your mind by speaking the name of Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father, or peace.
- Put away all distractions.
- Watch your breathing. Sit in an upright, but relaxed position. Close your eyes. Take slow deep breaths.
- Feel the sensations in your body—stress, heartrate, tightness, calmness, pain, lightness, etc. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it’s a good gift. By becoming aware of our body, we become present in the moment, and eventually, in God Himself.
- Breathe and Pray. Settle into a rhythm, turning each breath into a prayer. Imagine yourself breathing out:
- The need for control
Now imagine yourself breathing in its opposite:
Begin by trying it for five minutes. After a few days, increase to ten. I believe that as you engage in this exercise daily, you will begin to cultivate the blessing of silence, finding peace and rest in the midst of the chaos of life.
In silence and meditation on the eternal truths, we hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love. – C.S. Lewis