I made a brilliant comment to a friend the other day.
He was talking about all the frustrations building up in his life and confessed to me that he wasn’t enjoying any part of life. Even the fun parts seemed like obligatory work to him.
I asked him if he felt like the pressure of his work, his finances, his marriage, and even the pressure to have fun was all on his shoulders. After he admitted that he did feel the pressure was on him I brilliantly replied,
As soon as I said it I was like, “Duh! What an astute observation, Kurtis. No crap pressure crushes. That’s like Physics 101 right there.”
But later I reflected on our conversation and realized that there may be something to that statement. I can’t take any credit for it. It just popped in my head! And like I said, the laws of our physical world have proven that to be a pretty straight-forward truth so…it wasn’t really all that clever.
But it was true.
Like a submarine diving too deeply, when we allow unchecked pressure in our life we start to find the walls suddenly and dangerously crumbling in on us. Eventually, the crushing will allow the water in and we will quickly find ourselves drowning.
And we are all living with way too much pressure.
Pressure to succeed.
Pressure to parent well.
Pressure to fit in,
to be kind,
or even pressure to be right.
Above all, in whatever way you define it, we mostly struggle beneath the pressure to
get it right.
Pressures come from all different directions of our life, but the truth is we are the final gatekeeper of our own lives.
We ultimately get to choose what does and does not get passage into our hearts and minds.
No matter what our boss, our families, our friends, or even our churches are saying, we get to choose what pressures we will stand beneath, and which ones roll off our backs.
And in this regard, we humans are terrible at choosing the right weights to carry.
So this week, we will continue our journey toward trusting God (or whatever higher power you believe in) by practicing the antithesis to our overly-busy, pressure-filled lives.
This week we will practice doing nothing.
Don’t worry! Some of you just had a small heart attack at all the consequences of doing nothing for a whole week. No, no, no. I’m not asking for a week on inactivity. That would be disastrous!
This week, give 5 minutes to doing absolutely nothing.
JUST 5 MINUTES! That’s it.
If we cannot learn to trust that our world will still be ok with only 5 minutes where we are doing nothing of value, where we are getting nothing done, 5 minutes that we are essentially “just wasting time,” then we will never learn to trust God with all of our life and our world.
So practice this:
- Grab a timer that preferably is NOT your phone if you can (if your phone is your only option, then put it on Do Not Disturb mode. For 5 minutes block all notifications, texts, calls, and calendar reminders. This time is for absolutely nothing).
- Find or make a quiet place with no one else around; a closet, a spare bedroom, or maybe your back porch. My first 5 minutes of silence ever was on a park bench while everyone else was in school or at work. Just some place where no one will interrupt you, and there’s no music or announcements being made to distract you.
- Sit in a comfortable position, one that feels good but no so good that you risk falling asleep (not that that would be all that terrible!).
- Put away all devices that can ring, notify, or even make sound except for your timer. The world will survive for 5 minutes without you.
- I advise closing your eyes. This helps eliminate distractions and things that could potentially remind you “oh ya! I need to call So-and-So!” However, focusing on the beauty and peace around you in a park or in a painting you like can really help you avoid the busy mind full of pressures. This one I will leave to you. Try one one day, and the other the next. Have some fun with it.
- Sit and spend 5 minutes without doing or thinking anything that helps get a leg up on your day.
No getting a head start on the chores.
No meeting with someone or hanging out with that friend you’ve wanted to see forever.
No face-cleaning, after-up-picking, or butt-wiping your children.
No reading, bath taking, or wine drinking.
The simplest of starting places is giving 5 minutes to doing and accomplishing absolutely nothing.
This time is for wasting.
Over time, with much practice and great patience, I think you will find that this becomes the most valuable and coveted time of your day.
I have been doing this for several years now, and it has literally changed me from the inside out. It has made me first and foremost more loving and gentle toward myself, and I have found that change makes me more loving, patient, gentle, and kind with others.
And it makes me much more trusting of whatever God has in store for me.
Whether I become a highly-sought speaker and writer who has no privacy (which terrifies me), or if I work at Costco the rest of my life and never make more than $32.17 from my writing (which also terrifies me),
when I give time to silence and stillness,
I trust God,
I discover peace,
and I live more purposefully
no matter what trajectory my life takes.
This is not a quick fix, nor is it easy to start. The first several times you practice this you will find your thoughts and responsibilities banging on the door of your mind. Like a person to whom your front door has always been opened, they no longer understand why they are not allowed in whenever they want, and they won’t like it.
Don’t give up.
Lastly, it helps greatly to have someone to process this process with. There are multiple ways we can work this out together.
- Leave comments below sharing your experience, your struggles, and your breakthroughs from practicing stillness.
This is a great way to connect with those of us reading and practicing the exercises on this blog.
- Join the comment thread on my Facebook post.
There you will find dozens of others that are seeing and responding to the ideas we pose here.
- Speak with me personally.
I am offering myself to you to walk through some of your questions and/or frustrations in this practice. If you would like to process this out with me for 30-45 minute sessions just email me here at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to walk this journey with you.
However you get started, begin letting yourself off all the hooks.
5 minutes of silence and stillness is a great way to start doing just that.