I am reading through a devotional with my church small group. The most challenging parts are the two minutes at the beginning and end of each practice where we are requested to spend the time in “silence, stillness, and centering before God.” It is amazing how much my mind is able to wander in that short amount of time. Sometimes I begin thinking about what I will do after this time. Other times it’s about something that happened or that I read earlier in the day. It is so hard to keep my mind clutter-free as I wait and give God the gift of my time.
It feels so unproductive because I am not actually doing anything. I think that is precisely why I need to continue to practice this time, to retrain my brain that thinks that inactivity means unproductivity. When is purposeful time with God ever lacking in meaning or purpose? We should daily be trying to move closer to God, to be growing in our awareness of his presence with us and his movement in our lives. If I am always in motion, I am prone to miss God’s hand in the everyday parts of life. I want to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in me and making room for stillness and silence is a great way to do it.
I am trying different things to try to keep my focus on God in those two minutes. I have tried meditating on a phrase such as “Come, Lord Jesus” but a friend reminded me that meditating is not the same thing as contemplating, or being silent before God. If I am continuing to speak, even in my mind, when I’m supposed to be silent, then I am missing the point.
I have found three things that seem to help me improve in the process of being silent, still, and centered before God. The first one is to listen to my breathing. I practice yoga some and it has helped me to become aware of my breathing and improve at breathing deeper. When I listen to my breath in those two minutes, I don’t often have thoughts flying around in my head.
The second thing is a practice to help when I get distracted by random thoughts. I imagine a line of people with long handled brooms, pushing away all of the thoughts. I pretend my mind is a wood floor and the people sweep all of the distractions off of the floor, leaving it clean and open. It helps me to set aside thoughts and refocus after a tangent.
The most recent thing I have been doing is to close my eyes and picture myself sitting with Jesus. This is our meeting time and we are sitting cross-legged and facing each other. I try to picture his face, a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his face because I have chosen to stop and sit with him. It is a companionable silence. Occasionally, seeing his love for me on his face, I smile back at him.
I don’t practice all three of these each time but find it helpful to have tools to use if I happen to be particularly distracted during my devotional time. I would love to hear strategies others have to help them practice silence, stillness, and centering before God.