Self-Care: Be still

Be still. Photo by Thomas Robinson.

One simple way to practice good self-care is to take time daily to be still. Practice moments of quiet and being still.

This self-care practices takes us away from the world of Doing, moving us into the world of Being. Last week, I quoted from Thomas Kelly’s classic book, Testament of Devotion about this “slipping over into that Center,” that still place of being with God in our innermost being:

If only we could slip over into that Center! If only we could find the Silence which is the source of sound! We have seen and known some people who seem to have found this deep Center of living, where the fretful calls of life are integrated, where No as well as Yes can be said with confidence. We’ve seen such lives, integrated, unworried by the tangles of close decisions, unhurried, cheery, fresh, positive….We are so strained and tense, with our burdened lives; they are so poised and at peace.

To find this “deep Center of living” requires stillness, centering, a slipping over into a whole new way of living.

I’ve sometimes compared the contemplative life with “catching a cat.” Anyone living with cats knows how best to get a cat to fall asleep in your lap.

If you want a cat to lay in your lap, begin to purr and fall asleep, there is a frustrating way to attempt this: go get the cat, pursue the cat, hunt down the cat, grab the cat, haul the cat over to your chair, sit down and plunk the cat onto your lap and verbally tell the cat to start purring and go to sleep. In this scene, the cat quickly gets spooked, hides under a bed to avoid being caught. If caught and hauled out from under the bed, the cat is all claws and no purrs.

The only way to “catch a cat” is to simply sit still in a chair, to sit quietly. Almost every morning, I awake to feed our two siamese sister cats, Tus and Tak. After they’ve eaten, they come out into the living room and find me sitting quietly in my chair with my feet up on a footstool. I am reading my morning devotion books, drinking a cup of coffee. One at a time, Tak first, soon followed by Tus, they jump up into my lap. If I am quiet, not fidgety, they both will lie down, begin purring and soon fall asleep, where they will nap for over an hour.

Steps into Being Still

  1. Try sitting still today for a few minutes.
  2. Find a comfortable chair in your home, next to a good reading light or a window.
  3. Place next to the chair a few simple tools for devotion, such as a Bible, a devotional book, a journal and pen, perhaps a cup of coffee or tea.
  4. Leave your phone in another room.
  5. Aim for 5 minutes of sitting still and just simply being quiet.
  6. Deal with distractions. Of course, the first thing that will occur is some form of distraction or another. Often a demand will arise, telling you to to this or that. Ignore these inner demands. If needed, simply write down that demand in a journal, telling yourself, “I will attend to this later.” Then set the journal down and return to the quiet. Soon your mind will be racing off to another list, or another set of problems to solve.
  7. Gently let go of distractions. Imagine sitting by a slow moving stream, placing your feet in the stream, and simply sit there watching the water flow by, carrying away your distracted thoughts downstream, as you simply sit still for a few minutes.
  8. I’ve found helpful to refocus my mind and soul, to breathe a simple prayer from the Bible. The prayer I breathe is “Abide in me, and I in you.” In this prayer, Jesus is inviting me to simple abide in him, asking permission to come and abide in me.
  9. After 5 minutes, get up and go about your day.
  10. Try this for a week and see what difference comes from that little time of 5 minutes of being still.

I have sometimes thought of this brief few minutes of being still as coming to a well of living water during the day, and taking a deep drink from God’s life giving presence.

Psalm 46 is a psalm full of noise, disruptions, tumult, chaos and war. Towards the end of the psalm, God speaks, inviting us, in our prayer life: “Be still, and know that I am God!”

God keeps inviting us daily into that deep Center of God’s presence, even in the midst of noise, disruptions, busyness, and chaos around and outside us.

Of course, there are many opportunities during the day to step away from the busyness of life, and to simply slip over into the Center.