It’s a useful practice. Generally, mindfulness is the ability to be aware in any given moment. To be present in the “now” is to take a break from constantly looking forward. It’s giving the mind a rest from constant busy, focused activity.
There’s a growing amount of evidence that mindfulness – along with its accompanying tool of meditation – has a significant positive effect on one’s physical and mental health. So, in the last few months, I’ve been looking into it.
I like the idea of taking a mental break. It’s quite surprising to realize how busy my brain is on solving problems, planning details, and generally overlooking the present moment.
Today, I stand in what must be the smallest state park in the country – the city-block greenery of Berkeley Springs State Park in West Virginia. Its claims to fame are its mineral hot springs and the rectangular hole in the ground before me: George Washington’s Bathtub.
It is odd to think of the iconic founding father relaxing. I can imagine the general pausing on his horse just long enough for an artist to capture his profile for a recruiting leaflet or dollar bill, but it’s much harder to conjure him sitting in his colonial skivvies, refreshed by the spring water and tickled by the tiny minnows.
But great historical figures – like our brains – need a break sometimes.
It’s not enough, though, just to empty our minds. That’s just the first step. We need to be aware of what we fill it with.
This verse has been walking with me through the last few months:
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)
In the context, God is speaking about how he will bring an end to the violent tumult of the nations, exalting himself over all the earth. On a very small scale, this pictures for me his desired rule over the tiny tumult in my head.
But I note that it’s a two-step process. First, be still. Second, know that he is God. It’s like the remarkable stump I found earlier today with a raspberry bush growing in its hollowed center. We cannot have Jesus’s living presence in a mind that has no space or quiet.
Before I leave the park, I fill up my bottle with spring water. To obtain the crystal-clear liquid, I first had to pour out the remaining tap water. As the bottle slowly fills, I think about how I want such a filling of the Holy Spirit. Particularly at this stage of my life, I need that renewed sense of the Lord’s presence and purpose.
A mind set upon his priorities is a mind truly refreshed.
Father, help us to still our minds. We are so often too mentally preoccupied to make space in our heads for you. Teach us how to be truly still. And then fill us anew with your presence.
Reader: How do you give your mind a break?