It’s no secret. I need quiet like I need water. Perhaps we all do. Have you read this article yet? Our brains require ample amounts of silence in order to rebuild the brain cells stolen by noise and stress.
Because who can truly hear in the middle of all this crushing noise?
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). (By the way, this is the first verse of the SLOW Word lectio divina included below.)
This afternoon I chatted with another homeschool mama in the corner of a kitchen as kids in costumes ran from one room to another playing hide and seek. We whispered about the need for quiet as if we were divulging a secret then we giggled at the extremes we go to guard our hours alone. But if this article or my (everyday!) experience are any indication, needing silence is just as essential to our mental and emotional health as our computer’s reboot button is to its continued functioning. And really, should we be surprised? My husband asks me the same question every time my computer seizes up: “When was the last time you rebooted?”
So, friends, it’s time to make a plan for rebooting our internal computer. It’s been necessary for women (and men!) throughout time. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna (1669-1742), used to take her long apron and place it over her head to signal the need for calm. Madeleine L’Engle’s children would recognize her irritability as a need for silence long before she ever did and beg her to take off to her writing tower at Crosswicks. Other women have written about their struggle to create spaces of silence. The introvert in me always smiles when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem The Art of Disappearing.
In the early 1950’s Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned A Gift from the Sea about the wrestle between motherhood and the need for quiet: “I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote these words before the hundreds of channels on the tv, the portable XBox, or the black hole of the interwebs.
Into the age-old conversation I’m offering this simple little gem: #10MinutesofStillness. Sometimes simple can be embarrassing, but sometimes it can be brilliant. After years of practicing, this one, my friends, is brilliant simple. Of course, it’s not my brilliance. I’m just the beneficiary. I picked it up from my sister, who picked it up from a friend. You get the idea. Now here’s the prescription: Choose a quiet space, put the phone upside down and turn off any beeps and buzzes, and set an alarm for ten minutes. Full stop. It’s the mini-Sabbath in the middle of your busy Thursday.
(Secret: I’ve found #10MinutesofStillness are just as luxurious on family holidays as they are on a busy weekday. Here’s one of mine from family vacation last year.)
For just ten minutes you push away the incessant to-do list, and just settle into the gorgeous richness of the present moment. Listen for the birds. Scan your space for beauty. Be attentive to your breath. (Maybe you’re a shallow breather like I am?) Perhaps you can take a short phrase of scripture and do centering prayer. Most days I keep it simple. I make a cup of cinnamon tea, head out to the porch, shut the front door with all its crazy on the other side and sit in the swing. Ten minutes to hit the refresh button.
Why #10MinutesofStillness? Here’s what I’ve found after a few years of the practice:
1. #10MinutesofStillness is the perfect transition. Do you reach for a cereal bowl and a remote when the kids are finally in bed? Yup, some nights I do too. Other nights I want to lean into something more creative. Scheduling a #10MinutesofStillness at the moment of transition helps me to be more mindful of my true desires and not just fall into an immediate Netflix hole. I did the same thing when the kids were young enough to nap.
2. #10MinutesofStillness gives us a moment of time to be attentive to emotions crowding under the surface. You know how it is. Your irritability is coming from somewhere. Nonjudgemental listening is the first step to untangling. Bring the emotion up into the air, look at it with compassionate curiosity and without trying to be a Fixer. Bring it up and out into the Presence of Christ.
3. #10MinutesofStillness is the creative’s best friend. When we’re mired in the tough of the making and the words refuse to flow, just ten minutes of no agenda silence will often unleash the dam and we’re on our way again.
4. #10MinutesofStillness is a gateway back to gratitude. Practice opening up one sense at a time for sixty seconds each, without judging what you receive and without trying to create meaning. And then start thanking God for the simple gifts you are experiencing. Pretty soon the chaos is tinged with joy and you’re ready to love your people again.
5. #10MinutesofStillness can push the door open to God’s Presence. When our head is down and we’re leaning hard into hustle, we can forget to be aware of God-with-us. Light a candle in your quiet space and sit without an agenda but with expectation, contemplatively present to He who is always present.
So, friend, I’m daring you: schedule a mini-Sabbath into your day. Cultivate a small corner of stillness then enter the conversation. What was it like for you? Was it a struggle? Was it a gift? We want to hear. And if you use the hashtag #10MinutesofStillness, let us know! I’d love to see the chorus of contemplatives rise!
Do you have another brilliant simple idea for creating calm in the chaos? Do share!
Today’s SLOW Word. (The scripture starts at 2:20):
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