For a few days now I’ve battled a bit of stomach queasiness. Being still helps. Having quiet does too.
Wednesday morning we drove north a few hours to attend the funeral of a woman I’ve known my entire life. Stanley’s mother passed away last Saturday after a lengthy illness. (Want to know who Stanley is – click here.)
Rhonda drove while I sat shotgun. Head still. Alone with my thoughts. Thinking of the power of stillness and silence. And once more, considering how the Internet has elevated the chaos in my life. In all our lives.
Thomas Merton has oft been quoted…
We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we slow down and be still, it will make itself known to us.”
Well, maybe. Maybe not. But I do encourage you to embrace the practice of stillness and silence. If not physically, then metaphorically. Or both.
I’m a pacer.
My phone rings, I answer and so begins the pacing. Back and forth. Around. Inside, outside – it doesn’t matter. Fact is, I may answer inside then venture outside. Or vice versa. Moving clears distractions. It’s a stillness I can find in constant, but relatively slow motion.
Growing up in a Christian home, I was always aware of this scripture, Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Where I worship we still sing a song containing that very lyric. It means we should give serious and sober consideration to God. Life is filled with distractions that can steer us away from God. We need to quieten things down so we can better focus on more important issues. Namely, the issues of serving God, being righteous and preparing for judgment and eternity.
We arrived at the funeral home about 45 minutes before the scheduled starting time. The family had asked that I be a pallbearer.
My son and his family caravanned with us, driving their own car. Easton, my youngest grandchild, just turned 1. Inside the funeral home he found himself in an unfamiliar place. I watched him squirm in the arms of my daughter-in-law as he craned his neck to see the various elements of the surroundings. He can’t walk yet, but if he could I knew he’d be like a kitten with multiple balls of yarn. Too much to look at and too much to chase.
I watched Easton wiggle and twist to see all he could see. I do the same thing. Maybe you do, too. I don’t twist and wiggle so much due to my lack of limberness, but figuratively speaking I often feel like I’m rotating my head like an owl with all this sights and sounds of the Internet.
Coke just released a clever YouTube video about controlling our social media urges. The video description says…
The Social Media Guard takes the “social” out of media and puts it back into your life. Did you know that the world spends 4 millions years online every month?If you’re watching this video on your mobile phone, it’s time to put it down. Look around you, there is probably someone special you can share a real moment with. Enjoy it with an ice-cold Coke
I don’t know if that’s an actual stat or not – 4 million years online spent every month? Sounds about right though.
As an audio guy I wonder how much louder the noise is compared to the pre-Internet age. No way to measure it, but the absolute threshold of hearing in our head may be increasing. We’re likely getting accustomed to all the noise and so perceptible differences are tougher to recognize. And maybe like our physical hearing, the nerve endings deteriorate with age making it necessary for things to be louder, and louder and louder.
Reminds me of that great joke. A guy buys the world’s best hearing aid. He’s bragging to his buddy about all the state-of-the-art features and the cost. The buddy asks, “What kind is it?” He looks at his watch and says, “Ten thirty.”
Movement. Volume level. Those are just two ways we can think about distractions, preoccupations and all the other things that often cloud our world.
The power of fog is how pervasive it is. There’s no getting away from it. It’s everywhere. You have to slog through it until it clears. It can rack your nerves if you’re driving in it. Fact is, we did drive in it on our way to the funeral in Oklahoma. By the time we got to Gainesville, Texas it was so thick visibility was down to mere yards. And it lingered for many miles as we journeyed up Interstate 35.
All day it was as though everything was teaching me the power of silence and stillness to rid myself of whatever fog had crept into my life. Maybe it was because death was on my mind. Maybe it’s because for about 3 weeks I had regularly had dreams about Stanley. Maybe it’s because I’ve been preoccupied with many things lately. Whatever the reason — I increasingly became aware that I’m in dire need of stillness and silence right now. And even more, by the time we got back home for an all day trip to Oklahoma (and driving back like we were racing in the Daytona 500), I knew that if I’m going to move forward I must incorporate a lot more stillness and silence into my life.
Here’s my plan (along with my logic behind each step):
1. I’m going to steer clear of social media for the next 7 days.
There’s nothing magical about 7 days. Or a week. It’s simply a random time that I picked because it feels long enough to make an impact. I’m also going to dive into this with the notion that I may want to extend it. I confess that it’s often been tempting to step away from social media entirely, but that’s unrealistic. Besides, it’s not social media’s fault that people abuse it, misuse it and fill it with loads of noise.
I’ve done the social media hiatus before and found it refreshing each time. That should tell me something, right? Refreshing? Then why don’t I do it more often…or kick it to the curb entirely? I don’t know. I’ll get back to you.
2. I’m going to create content and stay on schedule with things both here and at Bula Network.
I know, it’s not really part of stillness or silence, but I’m just letting you know what I’m going to do and why. Creating content is contributing to the noise others may experience, but it’s an outpouring of the noise in our own heads (we like to call it creativity, value and other terms of endearment). By keeping up the content creation schedule I can surely lower the noise floor for myself. You? Well, you need to keep listening and reading because I’m bringing you such premium content!
3. I’m going to begin writing some long-form content.
I know. People usually call them “books.” But the Winter Olympics are on and I was baffled by the figure skating having a short program and a long program. I find both short and long programs boring, but I’m a hockey guy. So there.
A book sounds like a daunting task, but to begin writing some long-form content sounds less so. The main chore is to begin and move forward. How far will I get? I don’t know, but if you don’t start…you can’t finish. So, I’m going to start.
4. I’m going to visit the gym twice a day for the next week, excluding Sundays.
I tend to avoid the gym on Sundays. No, it’s not for religious reasons, but it is because I attend worship services twice on Sunday and by the time we get home…it’s really productive time to get caught up on some web work, etc.
I’m going to try to visit the gym mid to late morning for 45 minutes or so, then go again late in the afternoon. An hour and a half to two hours a day at the gym will give me more physical movement, which I’ve already established can help clear the fog. My biggest challenge with this step is going to be deciding what to listen to while I workout. I usually listen to podcasts. I’ll keep doing that, but I may try some new ones or try some with a different focus than the usual suspects. Just here, let me share with you some favorite podcasts (in random order as I can remember them):
There are many podcasts in my iTunes library subscriptions. Last time I counted there were over 60. No, I don’t listen to all of them even though I subscribe. I don’t even download all of them, but I probably get around to half of them (at any given time). I may shake it up during this first 7 day time period.
5. I’m going to play more and stop spectating so much.
By play, I mean work. It’s about doing stuff. Serving. Providing value. Helping. Doing. I’m going to do more of all that.
Reading. Watching. Listening. Consuming. I’m going to do less of that. At least in the ways we normally mean that with media. I don’t mean I’m going to stop listening when people speak to me.
6. I’m going to get more sleep.
“Good luck with this one,” I can hear my wife say. I’m a notoriously light sleeper accustomed to sleeping in 90-minute shifts through the night with prolonged periods of being awake. I can do some things that may help:
- Reducing caffeine might work. Might not, but I’ll try.
- Stop working earlier in the evening.
- Shut down the computer and all electronic devices a few hours before bedtime.
- Take drugs. When all else fails.
7. I’m going to pray a lot more.
You already know I’m a “man of faith.” Even so, I know I need to pray more. I pray regularly, but not as much as I know I should. And I’m not just talking about giving thanks for food during meals. I’m talking get down on your knees and pour your heart out kind of prayer. I’m ashamed to confess that I don’t do that nearly as often as I should. I’m not going to regiment this or schedule it necessarily, but at least twice a day I’m going to make time to get in a quiet, dark place where I can get on my knees and take whatever time I want to accomplish this.
I didn’t put this last because it was the last thing I thought of. It was the first thing I thought of, but I wanted to end with the most important step, not the least. Putting God first is the best step any of us can take to move forward. If we neglect to recognize the value of our soul, then we’ve missed it all (Luke 9:25). “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
It’s first things first. As usual. Why don’t we do what we know we should? Because we’re selfish. We want what we want, not necessarily what we need. So we chase what we want. Part of my quest for stillness and silence is to rid myself of the fog created by own self-centeredness. Part of it is to discipline myself to pursue what I most need. It will not be easy. But most worthwhile pursuits aren’t.