The Value of Stillness

Exif_JPEG_PICTURESpiritual disciplines are often the topic of many books or articles.  These disciplines can encompass the familiar, such as prayer, Bible study, or giving, while others occasionally  foray into new territories, like simplicity, social justice, or meditation.

The practice of meditation for Christians is one that is sometimes hotly debated.  Some say the idea of being still and quieting the mind is “New Age,” or a way for Satan to control a person’s mind.  Others have compared the practice to allowing a shaken glass of dirty water to settle and become clear.  For me, the practice of meditation is a way of becoming more aware of thoughts that come from the “old man” or the false self and more attuned to the gentle whispers of the Holy Spirit.

The idea of controlling the mind, with its random thoughts often focused on the future or the past, is not new.  In fact, believers are encouraged to pay attention to what they are thinking about and to strive to make those thoughts positive:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phillipians 4:8, NIV)

By paying attention to those thoughts rolling around in our heads, we soon can recognize untruths (“I can’t do anything right” or “I’m such a loser”) that conflict with who we know we are in Jesus Christ. More importantly, we can recognize that the evil one often takes advantage of our unmanaged thoughts to promote the untrue beliefs of unworthiness and separation between us and God. Taking a few minutes each day to sit in stillness creates the spiritual “muscles” we need to deal with such negative thinking.

In addition, observing our thoughts while interacting with others can also reveal old patterns that are sometimes based on fear and the need to control.  By creating mental space through stillness, we are better able to see why we respond as we do in some situations.  We can unpack the emotions that generate our response and see how to react more lovingly.

This self-analysis is closely tied to our ability to “hear” the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  When we better understand why we think the way we do and cultivate the ability to choose differently than our typical emotional knee-jerk response, we make room for the Holy Spirit to have more influence in our thoughts and actions. We can see more clearly how the “old man,” the false self or ego, is responsible for much of our suffering and stress, and we are more receptive and aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  Our participation in the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit takes on new vibrancy.

It is important to see that our meditation can take different forms.  Some may prefer sitting quietly, while others need repetitive movement, such as walking, to still the mind.  Focusing on our breath or what’s happening in the present moment can help, too.  Some helpful practices come from Eastern religious philosophies, but unfortunately, Christians discount them, thinking that they could not apply to a believer’s meditation practice.  However, the ideas of “breath prayers” or repeating a word or phrase (a mantra) have proven useful to Christians and non-Christians alike. These are simply tools that enable us to still the murky waters of our minds and allow the clarity of the Holy Spirit to rise to the forefront.

Meditation is not a New Age practice or Eastern religious philosophy to be feared.  It is an opportunity to grapple with the false self and allow the new self in Christ to grow in a believer’s mind.  Through calmness and stillness, we make ourselves more available to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, participating more fully in the work of God on earth.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of flickr.com

 

 

4 comments so far

  1. Carrie Smith on

    Well said and timely for me, Nan. Thank you. 🙂 I’ve been working on this myself – stillness of mind is not easy, but when you enjoy it for even a few moments it is oh so refreshing!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Carrie,
      I agree – I don’t think we realize how constant our self-talk is until we make a point of being quiet. Then we can see how often our thoughts are worried about something in the future or rehashing an event from yesterday. By being tuned in to right now, we are better equipped to handle this day’s trouble. Thanks for your comment!
      Nan

  2. Nan, I appreciate this post a lot. You have put into some clear words why we should bother with meditation, especially in your paragraphs 4-6 (right after the quote). Allow me to suggest that the phrase “creates the spiritual muscles” could be a little unclear to some who think that WE are the ones building those muscles. As you so rightly say in other places, we “make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit” who is the one doing the weight-lifting for us. But if I may, I’d like to quote you for some work I’m doing to teach the spiritual disciplines.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      I still am not sure how to clearly convey that any good we do or have or become is from God’s loving expression through us, yet we have to do something to place ourselves in a position of awareness. Otherwise, any expression of God’s love that comes through us is unrecognized for what it is – our participation with the Divine. The spiritual “muscles” I mentioned is this awareness, and in my experience, it must be developed. As you say, it is the Holy Spirit who brings awareness but the spiritual disciplines can fine-tune this recognition of the spiritual at work in our lives. I suppose we could view this loosely as a talent or natural ability we all have to desire a relationship with our Creator. Even as a person with a natural talent for playing the piano gets better with practice, so we all become more aware of our spiritual nature and connection with God as we practice spiritual disciplines. This awareness is not from us but our sensitivity to it is deepened by spiritual disciplines, especially meditation. Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you are helping others come to understand meditation better.

      Nan


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