Are you afraid to be alone with your thoughts? Does the thought of being still and quiet with no outside distractions turn you off? Are you bored when your cell phone dies while sitting at a doctor’s office? When you are alone in the car, can you drive without the radio or phone or audiobook and just think?
According to a study done by a professor at University of Virginia, a large majority of Americans would prefer not to be distraction-free for even a few minutes. Even more amazing is the fact that many of them would choose to give themselves an electric shock rather than be alone with just their thoughts to keep them company!
This amazed me because I yearn for time alone–to pray, to think, to write blog posts in my head, to simply be. Part of the charm of gardening to me has always been that I am alone outside and don’t have any distractions (as long as the children don’t need me). When I worked in a molecular biology lab, I used the many hours of running gels and preparing for experiments alone in a little room and used the time to memorize poetry, hymns, and Scripture.
My son and I discussed this study and wondered if the reason people these days seem to need constant stimulation is due to the fact that our culture, as a whole, is on the downswing and there is a lack of wholeness in our culture, our communities, our families, and our own person. That lack of wholeness, of integrity, leads us to want to flee our thoughts because we don’t know what to think or how to think it anymore. We also wondered if there was a difference in results between introverts and extroverts or if the results were spread evenly as they were in age group (although not in gender).
And yet, part of me understood these results. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I too am easily distracted these days– by outside noises, electronics, and busyness–and will often pick up a book rather than be completely still. I rarely stop and just think.
However when I do set that time aside, even for ten minutes, I am refreshed and enriched as I pray and ponder things in my heart. I think there is a reason why the Bible exhorts us to pray and meditate. Through prayer and meditation on truth and goodness and beauty, our hearts and minds are reminded of what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of good virtue and praiseworthy.
I am slowly adding in time to write letters and journal. I am finding that forcing myself to slow down and write with pen on paper allows my mind to dwell more deeply on what I am writing and thus meditate more on the truths I am copying or communicating. Meditation and prayer time is a time to be alone with my thoughts and with God. I believe that as my thoughts are more focused on the “things above“, my life will be fuller and more whole and richer for me and for all those around me.