One day I chatted with a friend over a cup of coffee. This question surfaced in our conversation: “What is your greatest desire in life?’ The answer, “Have a peaceful mind.”
One effective way to develop a peaceful mind is a daily practice of silence. Insist upon at least 15 minutes of absolute quiet every 24 hours.
Go alone into the quietest place available to you and sit or lie down for and practice the art of silence. Do not talk to anyone. Do not write. Do not read. Do not answer the cellphone. Think as little as possible. Throw your mind into neutral and let it be inactive.
Unfortunately, Americans are not skilled in this practice, which is a pity, for as Tomas Carlyle said, “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves.” This generation of Americans have missed something that our forefathers knew—the silence of the great forest, and of the far-reaching plains that helped to condition their character.
Scientific experiments show that noise in the place where we work, live, or sleep significantly reduces efficiency. Contrary to popular belief, it is doubtful if we ever completely adjust our physical, mental, or nervous mechanisms to noise. No matter how familiar a repeated sound becomes, it never passes unheard by the subconscious.
In our cities automobile horns, the roar of airplanes, and a multitude of other noises actually impact physical activity during sleep. Impulses transmitted to and through the nerves by these sounds cause muscular movements which detract from real rest. If the reaction is sufficiently severe, it shocks the nervous system.
On the contrary, silence is a healing, soothing, healthy practice. When you go to a quiet place and empty your mind for a few minutes, think about a beautiful, soothing, place.
While writing these words, I thought of Manila Bay in the Philippines. My brother-in-law, Lynn Stephens and I, were on a Mission Tour to Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia. Our schedule from Taipei, Taiwan was to fly to Manila, then to Bacolod City, Negros. We missed our flight in Taipei, and consequently it delayed our connection from Manila to Bacolod City. We had to spend the night in Manila.
The long day and unscheduled stop stretched the nerves. It was late when we reached our hotel, very tired and ready for rest. I casually opened the curtains and looked out. A full moon had just come up over Manila Bay. A calm ocean with moonlight glimmering on the bay, and in the distance soothing music floated from a boat restaurant.
Occasionally during one of my quiet times my mind rushes to Manila Bay, a great peaceful moment that I experienced years ago. In your quiet time think of a peaceful scene and it will help you empty your mind.
Best of all, listen for God to speak to you. He says to us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). A quiet time gives peace of mind and strength for living.
— Jerry Burnaman is pastor of Grays Prairie Missionary Baptist Church