Our world is filled with noise. It's hard to find a place of quiet reflection anymore. Whether it's some kid's overdriven bass-thumping music from his car, the laughter or racket of children, or jets overhead—we are frequently bombarded with sound—some good, some not so good.
Due to my bad back, bad knees and bulbous belly, I haven't backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about those great outdoor outings into the back country of the Cascades or Glacier National Park is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.
Believe it or not, I'm an introvert. I love people. I can engage in a crowd with smiles and conversation, but I am refreshed in moments of solitude. There's nothing I love more than a good book in one hand and a great cup of java in the other. Reading. Alone. I find solace in solitude.
Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have a radio, CD or TV playing in the background all the time. Perhaps quiet intimidates some or makes them feel alone. Maybe the hum of a TV in the background silences an inner voice they'd rather not hear. I'm not sure why, but too many humans fill their environment with white noise of some sort, and they avoid silence as if it were the cause of Ebola.
Some might argue, "I like to be informed." Or they may say, "Music matters to me." I understand. But I wonder if we've filled our heads with so much information, news and opinions of others that we've forgotten how to reflect, meditate and think on our own. Is it possible that we've so filled our heads with the music of others that we've lost the ability to create music in our hearts?
I read—a lot. My book budget is ridiculous. I could be a professional reader if somebody would just pay me to do so! I subscribe to no fewer than 20 blogs. I appreciate the insights and wisdom of others. However, if I don't take the time to sit and think on a regular basis, then the swirl of data I'm jamming into my mind is of no value.
Reflection leads to realization. Meditation results in movement. Silence produces substance.
So here's what I propose: Hit the mute button—often. Find a place and time to quiet your heart, mind and soul every day. If you're like the old woman who lived in a shoe, get up early to invest at least the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee or tea alone before the craziness begins.
When we had children at home, my wife would have them take an hour a day to be quiet. Even after they were way past taking naps, they were told to find a spot to read. No playing. No talking. Quiet time for all, including Momma! By the way, all of my grown children are avid readers to this day because of that daily family ritual.
You can do this by:
- Turning off the electronics for at least 30 minutes a day (Yes, that means your smartphone)
- Taking a walk someplace other than Main Street or the mall
- Clearing some space in your closet if you must, crawling in there and closing the door for 20 minutes
- Turning off the music on the way home from work and thinking, "What did I learn today? What am I thankful for?"
- At the very least, turning off your car radio once in a while and savoring the relative silence
I am grateful for modern technology. I use it. I like it. But I will not let it rob me of what I need most—moments alone—quiet time to ponder, contemplate and ruminate.
How about you? Introvert or not, you too need daily downtime to maintain your sanity. Don't wait for it to happen; make it happen.
Who knows what great idea or dream is waiting to sprout out of the soil of solitude and personal reflection?
Kurt Bubna serves as senior pastor of Eastpoint Church, a nondenominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Washington. He is also a blogger, speaker, radio and television personality and author of the Tyndale House book Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot. This column originally appeared at pastors.com.
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