A long time ago a wise person challenged me to spend the first 5 minutes of every car trip in silence. What would you think about if the radio weren't on? It seems such a small thing but it creates an oasis of silence in the middle of the noisy world. In that silence I can hear what I'm really thinking. I can hear the still, small voice of God. And I rest.
Being still is a skill that can be practiced, and with practice, learned. It can be taught to children, even those who are very young. It is invaluable, and more important than it has ever been because there are is so much noise demanding our attention. In his book Crazy Busy: Overbooked, Overstretched and About to Snap, Dr. Edward Hallowell talks about the barrage of stimuli that people are subjected to every day. He believes there is a kind of acquired attention deficit disorder emerging as a result of all the stimulation we recieve. As I read this book I realized that there is no way to immunize our kids against noise. The best we can do is protect them with "noise screens" the same way we apply sunscreen to their skin. One way to do this is to teach them to be still.
If you already have a quiet time each day you are well aware of the benefits of quiet and positioned to share stillness with others. If you don't, begin as I did, with 5 minutes in the car. This isn't really stillness, your mind remains occupied with operating the vehicle, watching the traffic, etc. but it's a change that at least partially frees your mind. From there, extend the number of minutes or miles with no noise and observe yourself to see if you are changing. As you get more comfortable with silence, try taking it out of the car. At home, I find it helpful to pray first and empty my thoughts out so that there is room in my head for God.
To teach stillness to children you may have to start with periods as short as a minute. The first step is no talking. Then, you may also have to help still individual parts of the body. "Make your feet still; make your hands still: make your legs still." As with adults, car time provides a good place to start. Take advantage of the relative immobility created by a car seat and also wait 5 minutes to turn on that movie! Bedtime practice can also be fruitful and has the side benefit of providing your child with self-calming techniques.
Think about your language. My mom once overheard a young mother telling her child to be silent, instead of quiet. Mom commented that she had never thought about how different these two instructions are. Being silent goes much further than being quiet. Likewise, being still goes further than being quiet, or even silent. Being still involves your whole body, and your whole mind. It probably doesn't matter what you call it - but it probably does matter that you are consistent and differentiate between the words.
So why pursue stillness? I am drawn to these words from the Psalms: "Be still and know that I am God" (46) and "He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul" (23). I pursue stillness because it restores my soul to the place where it is possible to hear God. May you also find still waters in the midst of your noisy world..