How often do you allow yourself to sit in stillness?
That doesn’t mean sitting on a bus with your iPod plugged in or vegging out in front of the TV while you watch another episode of House Hunters International; I’m talking about the kind of stillness where you close your eyes, breathe deeply and allow your thoughts to bubble up inside you so that you can work through what’s on your heart. Maybe it means sitting on your bed, your favorite bench in the park or in the driver’s seat of your car that you’ve parked in the library’s parking lot – but wherever it may be, all that matters is that you’re deeply listening to the emotions and feelings that are stirring inside you.
Sitting in stillness like this isn’t typical for most of us. I, for one, have the hardest time sitting still. My parents told me that when I was a toddler I was never one to take naps. In fact, when I was little I would wake up extra early on Saturday mornings (probably around 6 am), run up the stairs and pounce on my mom and dad, asking them if they were ready to play (what a nice daughter I was). Even today I find myself feeling like I let the morning slip away if I’m not up by 7.
But regardless of how hard it is for you to sit still, or how busy your schedule is – between papers, your job at the coffee shop, volunteer reading buddy-program, grocery shopping and starting up your own investment accounts … is your life really that crowded that you can’t find the time to sit, breathe and listen?
It was about this time two years ago that I took a long walk through one of the state parks that was close to my house in Portland. There were so many things going on in my life – selling my house, dealing with legal battles involving my dad’s estate, working through troubles with my health and being a sophomore in college – that I felt like I couldn’t grab all of the thoughts rushing around in my head. My mind was spinning and the thought of sitting still to work through my emotions sounded like a process that would involve a lot of painful introspection, so I kept finding ways to avoid it. But when I was walking through the park that spring day, I realized that I couldn’t avoid it any longer.
The sun was shining on a section of the forest – lush with green ferns, ivy that twirled around the tall trees and the yellow flowers were just beginning to bloom. I stopped and sat down on rock that was in the middle of this beautiful patch of nature and closed my eyes. I wouldn’t have considered myself very in touch with God at this point in my life, but at that moment, I remember asking God to calm me – that He slow down those rushing thoughts and help guide me with what I needed to do next. This was something my counselor had recently introduced to me, but this time, I was doing it on my own.
Whether I called it prayer or not, it was indeed one of my first conversations with God. When I asked Him to enter the picture -inviting Him into my life so that He could help calm the storm- my mind began to clear. The tightness is my chest began to lessen; the weight on my shoulders began to feel lighter; for the first time in a long while, I was taking the time to let my heart speak instead of suppressing it with the rush of the world that I so often let overwhelm me. It took a conscious effort to get myself to sit down in the forest that day, instead of continuing on that path, but boy was it worth more than I ever could have imagined.
In 1 Peter 4, Peter says, “be clearminded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 4:7
It is a very concise piece of advice, but it gets to the heart of something that I feel is a lost art in this busy world. I don’t think anyone would ever doubt the power of being “clearminded” and “self-controlled.” When we take the time to pray – to talk with God, to listen to God – we are allowing ourselves to heal and grow in ways that are more powerful than any vitamin boost, massage or “mind-veg” magazine could ever do.
God helps us find peace in the bigger picture of life that is beyond our capacity to understand. Finding stillness and letting Him enter your life gives you the strength to get through anything.