Seeking the Silence
We live in a world where everything and everyone- family, jobs, brands, media, etc.- is constantly vying for our attention. You really can’t avoid the onslaught even if you are just driving on your way to work. Think about the ads you hear on the radio, the billboards on the roadway, your phone buzzing with text messages and notifications. We are so used to this constant “noise” that we don’t even realize it’s happening. When was the last time you were alone with your thoughts- in true silence, no distractions, just peace and stillness?
I find that it’s hard for me to remember a time when this happened naturally. In the midst of life’s craziness- new job, new ventures, family birthdays and graduations and showers and weddings, buying a house, remodeling a house- you know, the normal stuff- I don’t feel I have the time to take a step away. I often don’t realize just how starved for silence I am until it happens by accident- I get to work early and the internet is out, or my phone dies while I’m waiting for my car to be finished in the shop. I don’t know about you, but I’m sad to report that my brain has a minor freak out. What do I focus on? What am I going to read or watch or mindlessly scroll through while I just SIT here? I’m so bad at being alone with myself, with my own thoughts, and just trying to be present. When this happens, I typically start creating a mental to-do list, start planning whatever is left unplanned in my head, and if I’m being honest, try to stave off the agitation I feel surfacing at the feeling of not “doing” something for even a few moments.
I have found in the last few years that seeking out intentional silence, going a little off-grid, and learning to be alone with my thoughts and the Lord, has led to huge leaps of growth in my personal life. It takes so much practice and at first, a little extra effort, to drown out the noise and to focus on the present. I’m by no means an expert and I’m constantly trying to find margin in my life for more of this, but here are a few ideas for those looking to clear their headspace more consistently and bring a little peace in:
1. Get out into nature
We don’t always have the time or luxury to get outside and into nature, especially if you live in a sprawling metroplex like I do, but even taking a walk down some backroads in your neighborhood, heading to a secluded park, or finding a new trail nearby with as little distractions as possible is worth it. There’s something so calming about being out in nature without headphones to distract you. When I need some alone time, I usually take my dog with me on an early morning walk when the least amount of people will be out and about. She provides the quiet company I need while I give my hopes and dreams a little time to marinate and soak in quietness of the moment. At least once a year, my husband and I like to take a more nature-focused vacation. We’ll hike for miles and alternate between silent companionship, basking in the beauty of our surroundings, or discussing what’s been on our hearts for hours at a time uninterrupted. It’s been some of the sweetest times in our marriage.
2. Set aside a date and time with yourself
With how busy we are all the time, we’re painfully aware of the fact that if it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t get done. Just as I have a morning workout, weekly time with friends, and a trip to the grocery store on Sunday on the calendar, I have silence on the calendar as well. Every morning before I start my work day, I try to spend 5 minutes in silence. I find that in these times my heart easily yearns to speak to my Creator, and I always start this time with gratitude. It’s amazing the difference it makes to the start of my day if I neglect to have even this short amount of time before the crazy kicks in! Practicing silence and making it a scheduled priority in your day, wherever that may be, is the first step towards gaining peace and stillness in your life.
3. Put pen to paper
Journaling looks different for everyone, and while some have the ability to write beautiful prose each morning, the great majority of us do not have a consistent writing practice. However, if even 5 minutes of silence is hard for you, consider keeping a prayer or gratitude journal to help you focus and calm your mind. I find that the daily practice of writing, no matter how brief, is a more concrete commitment, and it helps transition my mind into that place.
Before the day demands your attention and your never-ending to-do list drives your day, seek out silence. Seek out stillness, and listen. There is peace and mercy for you today, but you have to create space for that and allow God to hold your day in His hands.
What are some ways you find margin in your life for silence? How does this help you? What excuses do you find you consistently make to avoid that time alone?