The Value of Sitting Still
I have what’s called a sitting practice. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: I practice sitting still! It would seem like sitting would be the easiest thing in the world, right? Something that requires no effort. Millions of people do it in front of the TV every day, specifically because sitting requires no effort.
But that’s not the kind of sitting I’m talking about. In sitting practice, I sit still in a QUIET environment that’s free of distractions. In this kind of stillness, I am not trying to do anything. Rather, I am trying to be.
This is much more difficult than it sounds. Because we are predominately controlled by our minds, our inner life is constantly full of chatter: memories, opinions, hopes, fantasies…The mind thinks this is what we need, but it’s not. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? All this chatter is the mind’s nails. The mind can only try to fix what it perceives as wrong with thought, with mental doing. Quietness gives the mind nothing to do, and that’s at least uncomfortable, because it’s out of the norm – and at most, terrifying.
There’s a reason God did not say, “Let your mind race while you’re multi-tasking and know that I am God.” It’s because you can’t give complete attention to multiple things. The quality of your attention is very important. Instead, he said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) because when you stop doing everything else, you can focus on knowing that God is.
I am not referring to prayer here. I am referring to knowing, to experiencing without actively doing. Active intercession, supplication and adoration all have their place, but it is not here. In this place of quiet stillness, I am making contact with the God of the universe who resides within me. I am actually, if I can let go of all that addictive mental doing, experiencing his is-ness, as it were.
If I take the time to get to that place, there is stillness and peace and joy that defy description. There is sudden clarity about the holiness and hugeness of God. I can feel and know by experience all the attributes of God that I have previously just read about. They become alive to me – and in me. And later, out again in the noisy world, they will become alive through me.
Last night as I sat in stillness, I was suddenly given the impression or understanding that being still before God is the equivalent of John leaning his head against Jesus’ chest.
Stillness is an act of love. It is whole in itself. Nothing more needs to be done. It is Mary choosing the better part. Action will come, but the lesson our fast-paced, start-up culture needs to learn is that the most valuable doing flows from being, not from thinking.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.