Can you stop for 5 minutes?
Close your eyes and tune out the world, right where you are?
If you’re like me, you think, “Sure. Anytime.”
But doing it isn’t easy.
My oldest child will receive the sacrament of Confirmation in the spring, so last night I attended a meeting for parents of candidates. Appropriately, we began in prayer.
I closed my eyes, but not before noticing that the mom next to me kept glancing down at the phone in her lap, reluctant to put it away. She crossed and uncrossed her knees. Shuffled in her purse. Wiped hair from her face. Pulled herself out of her nylon parka, making “swish, swish” sounds which seemed amplified in the quiet church sanctuary.
The fact that I can tell you this is an indication that I myself was not ‘fully present to God.’
My mind was also very much here on earth, following its whims.
Sitting quietly is hard for us.
We firmly believe that busyness is such a hallmark of our time that we’ve allowed the noise of it all to sweep us away from what our souls actually crave: silence.
A Real Simple article from September 2017 traces the influence of noise on our well-being. Writer Florence Williams points out that while loud noises have always been a threat to our hearing, recent research links increasing noise levels with heart attacks and high blood pressure. There is an association between elevated noise in our environment and the release of stress hormones.
When you factor in visual stimulation – the way we are constantly bombarded with news, advertising, and even the accumulation of items in our spaces – it’s no wonder we feel some sense of peace just standing in a place that’s clutter-free.
So what’s the take-away?
We need quiet to find peace.
Quiet – and the practice of learning to be still – could be the very best thing you give yourself this holiday season and into the new year.
It won’t be easy. And not because you and I don’t have 5 minutes to spare.
Sit motionless with your eyes closed for 30 seconds and you’ll see that your other senses are amplified.
You’ll hear your own breathing and the air whirring about your head, feel shifts in your body, smell lingering odors, taste whatever you last ate…. You’ll experience any number of sensations before realizing your mind is cataloging them!
But we can change this.
Practice helps us progress.
After we parents at last night’s meeting finished our shuffling, we settled into clarity and calm. Eyes closed, I listened wholeheartedly to what came next – a song – and relaxed into its words of praise, letting the alto voice carry me toward a better frame of mind.
It wasn’t pure silence, but it was a start.
When we empty ourselves of ourselves, we find what’s greater than us.
Practicing silence, we hear the whisper of God.
So as you hustle around handing out presents to those you love, find a place in your day to… hush.
Stop where you are. Close your eyes.
Start with just one minute and grow from there. One day into the next.
But give yourself this gift, because we fool ourselves into thinking that stimulation is necessary and good, when the absence of it holds the promise of so much more.