I wanted to take some time to expand upon what I had previously written regarding being able to be still before God. As I’ve written in the past, I think that our culture has wired us in a way that makes being present and still a very difficult task. I’d like to encourage you to begin to rewire your brain with a simple exercise commonly known as the breath meditation.
For those of you unfamiliar with meditation I do NOT believe that it is the goal to think of nothing. Most research would indicate both the unproductive nature and impossibility of such a task. Rather it is an exercise in sustained attention that helps strengthen areas of the brain responsible for executive control.
The breath meditation is simple- set your phone alarm for 5 minutes and focus solely on your breathing. As distracting thoughts come in, simply redirect your ATTENTION back to your breathing. Picture your breath, pay attention to how it feels as it passes in and out of your airways, notice the change in temperature of your breath. Make sure your aren’t just thinking about the act of breathing, but are actually focusing on the breathing itself and all the sensations that entails- we are more likely to be anchored in the present when we engage our senses. It doesn’t matter if you have 60 distractions in a minute, as long as you calmly redirect your attention back to your breathing, each redirect is strengthening your ability to focus attention- think of it like a pushup.
- You can only do this wrong if you make it about performance. If you get frustrated with your distractions and frustrated with yourself than the exercise has become detrimental.
- Think of this as a fast from the distractions, stimuli, and pulls of your life.
- Think of this as a detox from all the things that pull at your life. The thoughts that distract you will say much about the forces that control your life:
- “I’m doing it wrong”- reveals your feelings of inadequacy
- “I’m wasting my time”- reveals the pressure you experience to be productive
- IF you start thinking about all the things you should be doing, feel compeled to put a list together- you are coming in contact with the force that pulls at your life and are beginning to fast/detox from it. There is value in rest, in being still.
- I didn’t have time- this is a LIE, no life is so busy that it can’t find 5 minutes. Recognize that if you do not do this exercise it is not because you don’t have time. Don’t condemn yourself for it, but try and understand it. What’s behind the lie? Why didn’t I choose to do it? Is the fast to hard? The detox too painful? It may reveal how addicted to activity or performance you are. It may reveal that you really struggle just being alone with yourself. Whatever it is, I encourage you to locate that feeling and allow yourself to tolerate that discomfort for 5 minutes- allowing yourself to master the feeling rather than being mastered by it.
The Sabbath was made for man, according to Jesus. We need rest, it is inherently valuable. The ability to rest and be present is key to so much emotional and spiritual health, but it also has intrinsic value. It is valuable to cease from your labors and thoughts for a time and just be.
Research has shown actual brain changes from doing this practice over time. With patience, I invite you to enter into this exploration and exercise.