Most days, my brain is functioning about as well as a very crowded wave pool. In Texas. In July. Between expectations at work, maintaining friendships across the miles, and supporting a loving family, it’s loud. Not to mention messy. I am definitely not alone–how many times have you wanted to shake all the crud out of your head because you feel like you’re missing what’s REALLY going on? And how can you possibly be heard when you can’t even hear yourself?
The next time you’re in a meeting or classroom, you’ll see something familiar–most people are incredibly uncomfortable with silence. Why is that? Is it because silence makes us feel vulnerable, or scared that we may hear something we don’t want to hear? Or is it because we are afraid that what we contribute to the silence will not be correct, or good enough, or popular enough? Whatever it is, most of us take a pass on being in silence. Instead of avoiding it, we should be eager to get in that space where we can refocus and redefine what we have, need, and want. We can truly hear, without worry of judgment or fear.
To obtain a more peaceful mind and focus, we need quiet. Silence! As it says in Psalm 46, we need to be still. I’ve found two ways to make it happen:
1. Seek the silence. This is going on offense, forcing your distractions out of your mental space so you can run to your quiet. I imagine this as dashing into a forest and discovering a meadow in the middle. You find your silence and have the time to sort out your thoughts, worries, desires, and you return to others and their sounds when you are ready for them.
2. Invite the silence to you. This is your surrender, releasing the noise and stresses in your life so that they float around you. The things that are most important will rise to the surface, so you can fully encounter each in your own time.
Each method has its merits and both involve something important: choosing–in the middle of everything going on–and putting silence first. Plus, you also choose (to the best of your ability) when and at what rate you emerge from your silence.
Silence takes practice, especially when you feel like if you take time for yourself, even a few minutes, you may miss something or someone will need you or a mistake will be made. But with a mindset of dedication, seeking or inviting silence will become more and more natural. And just like any other practice, you will likely discover something new about silence every time you embrace it. Maybe it’s a sense of space, or a change in your body, or what type of situations make you yearn for that silence in the first place.
But what is silence even for? What happens next? That’s what is so great about silence: once you close your ears to chaos and confusion, you can finally hear. Hear what you need, in the moment, with the comfort of knowing it is truth, whether you actually like what you hear or not.
And what will you hear? That’s up to you and God, and what you discover in your silence may be a simple answer to a nagging question, or may change your life forever. Just be sure to close your ears and listen.