Roughly 12 years ago, I was issued a challenge from a good friend of mine. The challenge was simple: Spend 5 minutes sitting in silence. 5 minutes…that’s it.
Pffft…I thought, that doesn’t seem so difficult. So I tried it. I sat down in a chair, turned my timer on, and sat there. For the first thirty seconds or so my mind was racing. Did you get that essay turned in? Did you mix up the darks with the whites in the laundry? Did you take out supper for tonight? And all other kinds of things that your mind fills the spaces with. Then I started listening to the sounds of what was happening around me. The footsteps that were pounding through the floors upstairs, the door opening and closing, the winds whipping against the windows. After what seemed like forever, I got bored. Bored of sitting there. Bored of doing nothing useful with my time. And if I’m being a little honest, I was starting to get a little frightened. Not like a scared-for-your-life kind of frightened, but more of a scared of the silence that was seeping through everything. Scared of the quiet, the nothingness, and the lack of ability that my mind had to sit in that silence. So I checked the timer…it had only been 1.5 minutes.
I’m the kind of person that always has something happening in the background. There’s music or a podcast playing. I’m busy engulfing a book, or learning a new topic to keep myself busy. I like to be active and play with the kids, so sitting in silence…not really my thing.
Fast forward 12 years, and I’m still that “busy” guy. I still listen to music in the background, I’m still active, I still don’t like sitting still very often, BUT the silence no longer scares me. The silence no longer freaks the crap out of me and scares me.
No, I’m not talking specifically about meditating either, though this would be similar. I’m just talking about taking a few moments each day to sit and be still. Sit and be with yourself, regardless of how your day is going. Sit and check in with yourself. A time to break the busyness of life and just be. Enjoy that moment that exists right in front of you.
I now know why those 5 minutes scared me as well. It scared me because I was left alone with myself and my thoughts. It also scared me because I had placed such a value on being busy, that it felt scary and loathing to even consider doing nothing for 5 minutes.
I wore busyness as a badge of honour. “I must be important because look how busy I am,” would be one thought that would subconsciously flow through my mind. It didn’t matter what I was busy with, whether it was doing something actually important or simply scrolling through Facebook. I had to be doing something, because not doing something meant I had to actually take a look at myself.
Taking a closer look at yourself and even just sitting with yourself can be really scary. Scary because we may have hurt that we carry with us. Scary because we may do things or think things that are contrary to what we believe ourselves to be. Scary because we might realize that our brains can’t take a pause and rest. Scary because we may have to face the the ugliness that lives within our beauty.
I haven’t been intentionally doing this the past 12 years, realistically, it’s only been the last 1.5 years, but I’ve already noticed some major changes in myself by taking time to just sit for 5 minutes each day. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have a better sense of where I’m at emotionally throughout the day. I have an easier time naming the emotion I’m feeling. I have an easier time being in the moment and enjoying what’s right in front of me. And probably most importantly, I have a better sense of who I am as a person. Just how that ugliness interacts with the beauty that exists.
So let me give you the same challenge a friend gave me years ago that has, only now, drastically changed my life. Take 5 minutes to just sit. Notice where your thoughts go, notice how it makes you feel. Notice what’s happening around you and how your day has been going. Or just sit and be. How long will you make it?
About Jason Dykstra
Jason Dykstra is a husband, father of four (three living), and a conflict management specialist. After the loss of his son in 2016, Jason started a blog called, They Call Me Dad, where he explores #dadlife, grief, the role of men in today's world, and shares his many mistakes as a parent. For work Jason serves organizations and churches as they turn conflict situations into creative solutions. As an international speaker and trainer, he journeys alongside his clients as they unleash their potential in the areas of conflict management and leadership.