‘I had 90 minutes to myself,’ the tweet read. ‘No questions, no demands, just 90 minutes for me. OK, it was a root canal, but still.’
When was the last time you had time alone?
Now I know that COVID meant that we were all living on top of each other, and in most places in the world people still are. It’s hard to get time alone.
And if you managed to get some time alone, what would you do with it?
Would you fill it with music? TV? Social media?
No judgement here – I obviously started this blog with a Twitter quote, and I’m not going to tell you how many levels I have completed in Candy Crush.
But there is real value in spending time in silence. Alone, and in silence.
Silence and solitude is one of the great spiritual disciplines, and it is that for a reason.
Sitting in silence with God at the beginning of the day reminds you that you are a human being, not a human doing. That you are loved by God just for who you are. That the world doesn’t need you to spin it in order for it to turn.
Sitting in silence for ten minutes after a hectic morning resets your body and your brain and helps you to get your priorities right again.
Sitting in silence reminds you that it’s not all about you and that you’re not needed. But that you are loved. It helps you get in touch with your own thoughts and feelings. It helps you know where you’re at and where you’re going.
It’s a circuit breaker in the 100 mile an hour rush that life easily becomes.
This is how I do it:
The first thing I do is write down everything I’m worried about. I put that all on a piece of paper and then file that piece of paper in the shoe box that I’m calling God’s In Box. Now the worries are for him to deal with and are out of my head.
I have a special place, I sit on one end of my couch. The other end from where I sit when I’m watching TV. Other people go all out with special places for this and decorate and light candles and such. You do you. But it helps to have a regular place where you do this. If you keep places separate, then your brain and body knows, ‘This is where we do this. We’re doing silence now.’ This separate places thing works for other activities as well.
You can set a timer, so that you’re not always looking at your clock to see how the time is going. I sometimes set a timer, but if I have time I just leave it and go until I feel done. At least ten minutes, but sometimes as long as fifteen. I hope that someday I’ll be able to go even longer.
I start by taking three deep breaths – in for four, out for six, or something like that. This helps me to know that you’re starting now.
Then, I just sit.
If distractions come, I bat them away and keep going. If I find that my mind is still running at a hundred miles an hour, I stop and listen. I see how many different sounds I can hear. Birdsong, distant traffic, the house creaking as it warms up for the day.
This is a time of not achieving, not doing, not being productive. I’m not thinking things through, I’m not actively praying in words. I’m just being.
We can be addicted to words. Especially if you make a living with words like I do. We can think that they are absolutely necessary all the time. But they are not, and praying without words like this is … it’s just a beautiful thing.
We can be addicted to activity. Why sit for ten minutes when you could be cleaning? Gardening? Ringing a lonely person? Working? Exercising? But sometimes we need to know in our souls that we are worth more than just what we do. We are valuable for who we are. And that it doesn’t all depend on us. I am not the saviour of the world.
Sometimes I finish with The Lord’s Prayer, sometimes with a prayer of gratitude, sometimes I just finish.
If an insight comes to me, then I might journal it. But this is not about journaling (another great thing to do) this is just about being.
And that’s it, really.
Can you do it? Ten minutes a day. You could get up ten minutes early, or you could go to bed and sit quietly before sleep. You could spend ten minutes in silence while going for a walk in your lunch break. Yes, you don’t have to just sit, walking meditation is a thing, or swimming, or cycling.
I cannot recommend this practice highly enough. Ten minutes a day of just you and God. Give it a go.
If you want to learn more (and I highly recommend that too) read Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton. This is the book that I’ve been using to start my practice.