We all have reasons for living our lives in fast gear. Some of our reasons are really good ones too. We may have a house full of kids, a busy work and social life, or just brains that don’t ever turn off. Somehow, we seem to have gotten it into our heads that those who are the busiest win somehow. But, what do we win? Is it worth it?
About a month ago, I was talking to a young friend on the phone and lamenting my state of perpetual busyness. She knew exactly what I was talking about for she was struggling with the same thing. She shared the link to Barbara Brown Taylor’s talk on stillness with me. It had resonated with her and she was right in thinking that I needed to hear it too.
The perfect opportunity for this challenge came along last week. I was home alone and the power went out (again!). That meant: no phone, no internet connection, no TV, and no oven or fridge. All of my go-to-mind-numbing tricks had been taken away. I was basically forced to sit quietly for a while.
When I began the challenge, I wanted it to be a deep and profound experience. My busy life had left me feeling numb lately and I really wanted to feel God’s presence again. In other words, I was putting huge stress on the project before I even began. It was fast becoming another item on my to-do list instead of a beautiful experiment. So, I was disappointed at first that I wasn’t hearing a loud, booming voice filling me with deep truths and wisdom. But, the longer I sat in stillness the more I could hear the tiny whispers.
At first, my thoughts skipped around and I had trouble staying in the present. I finally managed to clear my mind and the first thing I noticed was the sound of the wild windstorm outside of my window. How was I supposed to concentrate on being still with all that racket going on? I suddenly realized that I needed to stop fighting and just let the wind “blow over me”. I pictured it blowing my mind clear of all the dried, old thoughts that clutter it. Perhaps, with my “house” swept clean, there would be room for God once again. I sat with that vision for a while before my mind moved on.
Because of an inner ear disease, I suffer from a constant roar in my ears and recent attacks have added the annoying sound of my own heartbeat into my damaged ear. I try to stay busy so that I can ignore these sounds because they are enough to drive a person crazy. With nothing to occupy my mind, the sounds became louder and I found myself getting stressed and angry. What good could come from focusing on the cacophony in my head? Then I heard a gentle answer, “By hearing your own heartbeat you know that you are alive and that is a gift.” I felt instantly humbled.
I may not have had thunderous words of wisdom entering into my head during my time of stillness but I did pause long enough to be reminded to sweep my “house” clean and to make more room for God to enter. And, I took the time to mourn the loss of a healthy ear and to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things, my frailties weren’t so bad. And now, I find myself grabbing small moments of stillness for myself. When a favorite song comes on the radio I take the time to just sit and let the music wash over me. And, when I’m running from the car in to appointments and meetings, I pause a moment and try to take in the beauty around me. I am practicing living in the present and I think that makes me more open to God’s blessings and teachings.
And, you know what? That’s not bad for my first attempt at twenty minutes of stillness.
Keep reading this week to hear about all our experiences with this challenge. I have a feeling they will be as varied as we are! And, try it yourself. What will be revealed to you during your time of stillness? Will you share your results with us?