Posts in Planning
Seven Simple Ways to Sit Still
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It’s not easy to sit still. Think about it. When was the last time that you sat comfortably and just looked out a window, day dreaming about something?

If you’re like most of us, the urge to check your phone can quickly overwhelm what might have been a quiet moment. That daydream? Out the window with another glance at Facebook or Instagram.

It may be deeper than this. Sure, we’re addicted to our smartphones. What if there are other things at play besides this?

In this post, we’ll examine the causes of our difficulty in sitting still for prayer. Then, we will map out seven simple ways to help you become an expert when it comes to sitting still.

The Causes

When you want to have a quiet time, it’s important to be able to sit still. No fidgeting. No distractions. This is of course, harder than it sounds. From my experience, there are four causes to our inability to sit still:

  • Distraction: if you’re home alone, it’s much easier to sit still. If you’re in a church full of hundreds of people, not so much. If there’s a lot of noise around you, sitting still will be difficult.
  • Access to gadgets: what’s close by? Is your phone in your hand? If so, you may be tempted to check your email quickly. Social media might be calling out your name. To the degree that your devices are within hand’s reach, you may find sitting still difficult.
  • Lack of transitions: most of use need time to “ease into” prayer. Don’t assume that, just because you are trying to sit still, that it will come easily. In our solutions list (see below), I’ll help you with this.
  • Fear: prayer involves vulnerability. When you go to sit still and have your quiet time with the Lord, you’re entering uncharted territory. God may speak to you. You may have a thought that is unformed. An inspiration may come to your heart. For most of us, this is scary.

With the causes of our discomfort with sitting still in hand, now we can turn to seven simple solutions (or ways) that will help you to sit still. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but purely practical. I personally use these “tricks” and believe me, they work!

The Solutions

  1. Begin with a phrase. A transition phrase, even if said only in your head, can be a useful “nudge” into sitting still. Using the same phrase can trigger your brain and heart that you are entering into quiet time. I like to use the ancient formula, “O God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me.”
  2. Notice your breathing. Just taking notice of your breath will let you know if you are anxious or calm. Pay attention to your body and begin to breath slowly and with intention.
  3. Use a countdown. If sitting still is very (read, VERY) difficult for you, you may try to simply close your eyes and count down from ten to one. This has nothing to do with hypnosis and everything to do with calming your busy mind. There’s something about an old-fashioned countdown that contributes to a peaceful mind.
  4. Set aside your devices. As Jesus says in Matthew 18:8, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” Could the modern day “hand” be your iPhone? I’m not advocating for you to throw away an $800 device. I am saying that your smartphone is probably too tempting and should be set aside while you pray.
  5. Use a journal. A journal is a powerful tool when it comes to sitting still. It helps get things out of your head. It maps progress. It lets you know that you are thinking through issues. It can be a way to write out your prayers.
  6. Fix your eyes. Some of us benefit from a visual focal point when we pray. This may be a crucifix on the wall or an icon on a table in front of you. You might have a Rosary in your hands that you can look at. If you are a “visual prayer”, try to increase your ability to sit still with a focal point for your eyes.
  7. Close your eyes. This may seem counter to #6 but there are just times when you need to close your eyes. I find this particularly true when I’m trying to pray in church or at a public event (i.e. a conference). Closing your eyes is an act of surrender to God, letting Him bring you deeper into intimacy and stillness.

For a bonus strategy, consider using your Bible as a tool for helping you to still still. A short passage can provide context for your quiet time. If you’re familiar with Lectio Divina, this technique can work quite well, making sense of a passage and integrating it into your prayer. It’s always a good idea to have a Bible close by when you are trying to sit still. 

You Can Do This

Sitting still isn’t easy. With some practice however, it is within reach. God desires a rich and fulfilling prayer life for each of us. By sitting still, you’re giving God the space he needs to transform your life and build confidence in your heart. You can do this. God can do this in you.

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Is Lent Stressing You Out?
 
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It’s Lent once again and you’ve probably made anywhere from 2-3 Lenten “resolutions”.  Catholics have a love-hate relationship with these kinds of Lenten activities.

 

On one hand, we feel excited about doing something new for and with God.  We secretly feel that maybe, just maybe, this Lent we will draw closer to the Lord.  Will this be the year when I have a breakthrough?  Will this year be any different from previous years?

 

On the other hand, it can feel like drudgery.  The fasting bothers us.  The alms giving only reminds us that we aren’t that generous in the first place.  By the time Easter arrives, we are more relieved than anything. 

 

The other weird part of Lent is that we are, most of us anyways, pretty awful at making resolutions.  Think of the last New Year’s Resolution that actually stuck past February 1- I thought so.

 

I’m no different.  Some years during Lent have gone really well, others not so much.

 

This year, I’ve decided to give something up that’s a bit out of the ordinary: podcasts.  Hear me out.  I drive a lot of carpools each week, getting my kids to and from school  and sports practices.  There’s a lot of time in the car and sometimes it feels like a part time job. 

 

To fill the space, I listen to podcasts.  A typical week might offer me 20-25 podcasts.  I listen to casts about politics, sports, productivity, faith and everything in between. 

 

So far, my Lenten sacrifice has been difficult but good.

 

A bigger question is whether your Lenten sacrifices are stressing you out.  Are they?  What’s behind that stress?

 

  1. A bit of friction might not be a bad thing. This might show you that you’ve been “soft” in the months (years?) leading up to Lent.  It might also be God telling you to sacrifice a bit more and to hang in there.  Sacrifice isn’t meant to be a cakewalk after all.
  2. You may have set yourself up for failure.  Is your Lenten sacrifice unrealistic?  Have you taken on more than 1-2?

 

My advice would be to sacrifice only one thing for Lent.  The key though is to make it a meaningful sacrifice.  For me, it’s podcasts. For you, it may be something else. 

 

Finally, it’s ok to make a “mid-game adjustment” during Lent.  Pray for the wisdom and discernment to know what God wants for you to do during Lent.  After all, a Lenten sacrifice is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. 

 
Is a Notebook Your Best Productivity Investment?

Everywhere you look, people are using old-fashioned notebooks.  It's not that they've given up their smartphones but that they are using notebooks to bring some analogue into their daily lives.

A smartphone, complemented by a portable notebook is a powerful combo for everyday productivity.  

I have been a hybrid paper-digital user for years.  While Google Calendar keeps my "hard landscape" events in place, I find there's nothing like paper and pen to navigate the nitty-gritty details of my daily work.  This includes meeting notes, doodles and notes from phone calls. 

David Sax, in his best-selling book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, details the rise in popularity of such notebooks like Moleskine and Baron Fig:

“Numerous studies have shown that handwriting notes is simply better for engagement, information retention, and mental health than is writing on digital devices.” 

When you write things down, your brain activates on a deeper level than if you just think something or type it into your computer.

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Moleskine isn't the only popular brand of notebook.  There's also the Bullet Journal which has given folks a clever way to stay organized.  Consider it "stylized productivity".

The bottom line- notebooks are back and they're cool once again.

There's one catch: what if you want all of the benefits of a fancy notebook but would rather save the $15 that often goes with it?  

After all, consider the costs of the most popular "in" notebooks:

  • Bullet Journal: $24.95
  • Baron Fig: $15-65

There are some other options.  You can use an inexpensive notebook.  You can create your own system as David Seah has done.  Or, you can use a whiteboard to get your creative, handwriting juices flowing.

The most important idea is this- connecting paper with digital is a smart move.  You just need to find an expression of this marriage that works for your style and your budget.