“Be still and know that I am God”
I love writing about stillness. On the surface it seems like a very simple practice, but in reality it can be difficult to achieve. Our world doesn’t make it easy to be still! Yet I believe it’s a critically worthwhile endeavor…for being still in the present moment is the best way to experience God.
In a busy world and a sometimes chaotic society, roadblocks to stillness often come from the outside world. But just as often, they can come from within—through our own thoughts and habits. In my experience there are three ways that we tend to leave the present moment in our lives.
Focusing on doing instead of being
How often do you find yourself doing one thing, but your mind is spinning with other things you know you need to do? You might be eating lunch at your desk, but you’re not thinking about what your sandwich tastes like, instead you’re thinking about what you’re going to say at that meeting after lunch or the errands you need to run when you get home from work. Multitasking isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes it’s what we need to do. (If I’m being totally honest, I’m eating my lunch as I write this post!) But it’s important to realize that when we do this, we are taken out of the present moment.
Focusing on our worries about the future
When something is making you feel anxious, how much time do you spend running the scenarios? Thinking about everything that can go wrong and coming up with a plan for every possible outcome. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is incredibly common, and I know very few people who can resist doing this. It’s important to be aware of how often our minds dwell in the future and to recognize that when they do, we’re not here in the present.
Focusing on regrets of the past.
It’s so easy to focus on things that we missed, things that we couldn’t do or lost out on. How much time do you spend thinking back on things that have already happened that you can’t do anything about? In this case I’m not talking about pleasant memories of the past, but rather regrets. Lost opportunities, harsh words, uncomfortable interactions. There are lots of ways to become lost in regret and every time we do, again, we aren’t really here.
All of these things have the same result of taking us out of the present moment. It’s the fastest way to get pulled off that path on our journey to spiritual wholeness. When we leave the present moment, we lose sight of God. We lose our sense of purpose. And we’re less able to focus on what’s really important.
In her book Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault writes: “The spiritual life can only be lived in the present moment, in the now. All the great religious traditions insist upon this simple but difficult truth. When we go rushing ahead into the future or shrinking back into the past, we miss the hand of God, which can only touch us in the now.”
The key to practicing stillness is to stay here with God in the present moment. Think of your mind as a busy airport. Your thoughts are like planes constantly taking off and landing. Backing up at the gates or circling the airspace waiting to land. Or maybe they’re like the crowded terminals jam-packed with worries and distractions. You need to take time on a regular basis to let those planes land. To empty out the terminals. To be still. When you let your mind settle, all past and future thoughts fade away, and you make room for God in the here and now.
May you find some time this week to experience stillness, where you can encounter the hand of God touching your life. Amen!