Monday, July 10, 2017

Finding Silence

When you get in your car, what’s one of the first things you do? If you’re like most people, you turn on some music. But, have you ever stopped and wondered why?

Everyday, millions, while at home have the television on. No one is watching, but it’s on nonetheless. Why is this?

In surveys, the number one reason people say they keep the television on in their homes is simply to generate some kind of noise.

“I just like having something going on the background,” people say. But, why is this?

Have we become afraid of silence?

Silence can be unsettling for many. In silence, we are left to our own thoughts and emotions. In silence, we often become aware of how we’ve become addicted to noise. Even more, we realize our dependence upon such things to pacify us. We become conscious of how often needless words and chatter rule our conversations, mostly out of fear and a need to control.

Cognitive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow, writes about research done in the arena of the mind. His research concludes that, “when we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing…” He continues, “To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings. This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television, despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed.”

While this is insightful, it really isn’t a new discovery. The Apostle Paul penned in the First Century, “the mind controlled by the sinful nature is death” (Romans 8:6). The practice of solitude and silence tend to strip us of these opiates, forcing us to encounter ourselves and the world as they really are.

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation,” wrote Henri Nouwen in his book The Way of the Heart. “Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. It is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs. In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me - naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken – nothing.”

  •       When there is no noise, what are the emotions that emerge within your soul? 

  •       When all the distractions are turned off, what does your mind tend to dwell on?

  •       When was the last time you were silent long enough to actually know?

Getting alone (solitude) in a quiet place (silence) was a natural element of Jesus’ life rhythms. The Gospel’s give us a glimpse into Jesus’ private life with God. 

Luke says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Jesus placed a high priority on these times of solitude and silence. Could it be, that these very times of being alone with the Father were one of the primary sources of Jesus’ strength, wisdom and insight?

  • Does solitude and silence have an expressed place in your rhythm of life? 

While silence exposes my subconscious patterns of thinking, this isn’t the goal. The higher goal is, as the Apostle Paul encouraged, to have a mind that is “set on” Christ (see Colossians 4:1-3). To have a mind governed by the Spirit of God, rather than the flesh. That we might walk in a reality marked by “life and peace,” not “death” and decay (see Romans 8:6-15). Perhaps, in time, we like Jesus, will discover silence as a incubator where we are reminded of who we are in Christ, His relentless love for us and our place in the world in which He as placed us. These are the true sounds of silence, may we hear them well…

Engaging Silence:
·      Consider going a whole week (or longer) without listening to anything while in your car. If you typically walk/run/workout with an mp3 player, go without. Pay special attention to the types of things your mind thinks about? Can you discern patterns of default thinking? Is this challenging? Take some time and journal about what you observe. Make note of what begins to change over the course of the week.

·      Set aside some time each day to simply be alone with God. For some, three-minutes of silence may be an ambitious endeavor. During this time, the goal isn’t necessarily to ask anything of God or even say anything to Him. Rather, simply to be with God. Perhaps, it is God who has something to say to you. Listen.
Silence your body to listen to your words...
Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts...
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating...
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit...
Silence your spirit you listen to His Spirit.
In silence you leave many and be with the One. 

-Mama Maggie

Be still, and know that I am God.
–Psalm 46:10

Step out of the traffic! Take a long,

loving look at me, your High God,

above politics, above everything.
-Psalm 46:10 Message

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