An elderly woman walked leisurely by while I sat in my beach chair. Danielle and our four-year-old son worked hard at making the perfect sand castle. The fourth in as many days. I noticed the woman make several glances at us as she passed. I smiled and said hello. She smiled back and exclaimed, “You guys look like a Norman Rockwell painting!”
(That’s not quite the Norman Rockwell painting she was talking about!)
You know the kind of “everything is perfect” kind of picture. Danielle and I smiled back, then looked at each other with amusement. It was a nice complement even though we know better.
Just a few moments before the woman walked by, Danielle asked me a deep question. “Are you always thinking about the past or the future?”
When she asked the question, I was staring out into the ocean, my line of sight just over her and my son’s head. I pondered her question for a moment as it took that long for me to understand the real meaning. Am I able to keep my mind still in the present moment? Or does it always wander into a past memory or a future plan?
Great question! At least in that very moment, my mind was nowhere else but right there, admiring the determination on my son’s face as he worked on the “perfect” project, loving my wife as she entered his world, and visually inhaling God’s vast creation.
That is not my usual mental state though. Throughout life, I have struggled with being still, mentally. Resting in the moment, resisting the pull to be somewhere else, thinking about something different, either from the past or potentially in the future.
Are you like that?
In the past when on a vacation that especially was several days long, I easily became restless always needing something to preoccupy my mind. I found it hard to enjoy the moment. I did much better this time.
I didn’t write. I didn’t return email. All I did was play on the beach, swim in the pool, read, watch a little playoff basketball, and hang out with my family. And enjoyed the stillness.
Why is this so hard for us to do? I bet some of you are even thinking that being mentally still isn’t really a good thing to do. Either you see it as a waste of time or you think that’s the last thing you want to do. Maybe you are afraid of where your mind will go—it’s too painful or disappointing or fearful.
Here are three reasons I think that learning how to still your mind is a good skill to learn:
- Reveals Your Heart. When we still our minds and disconnect from all the external input, we begin to see what is in our hearts. I know this can be a scary thing or even a surprising thing. At least it can be for me. But when my heart is revealed, I learn what is important, what things that I might need to confront or confess, and if anything from my past needs healing.
- Heals You Physically and Mentally. Some would call it meditation, that is, learning how to still your mind. Taking time to still your mind will help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Reminds You that He is God. In my opinion, this is the most important reason to learn how to still your mind. Psalm 46 is my favorite Psalm. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”. He is my refuge, my strength, my very present help in trouble. God is the Master at simply Being. He is “the Great I Am”. When I still my mind and meditate on Him, I am reminded of who I am and who He is. It brings comfort to know this.