By Valerie Minard
I recently ran into an acquaintance of mine, we’ll call Kate, while she was running along a bike path. Kate told me that she first started running to stay in shape. But, now over the years, she’s found that running not only clears her head but she’s able to resolve problems just by quiet listening as she runs. She rarely has time to do this with her active family, but 20 minutes into her run she’ll find herself making mental notes about who she should speak to, what to say, and answers to problems. Sometimes, she’ll even run into that person by accident, as if the meeting was pre-arranged.
This coincides with what researchers at Bar Ilan University in Israel have found. According to PhD student, Shira Baror, “When you reduce mental [stress], people have a tendency to avoid the ‘obvious solution’ and instead access unique thought in their mind.”
Some people think of this just as a function of the human mind or subconscious. But for others, accessing that “unique thought in their mind,” might be thought of as prayer, in which all true, enlightened thought comes from God, the divine Mind. In fact, when I mentioned this to Kate, she agreed. Even though she doesn’t think of herself as a “praying person,” she felt her quiet time running was her time to commune with God.
Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Going into the closet doesn’t require a small room but a means to get mentally still. Nor is it simply to empty our minds. But it does require shutting out distractions and fearful thinking so we can make room to receive thoughts from God and listen to the “still small voice” within consciousness, as described in the Bible.
Christian theologian and author Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “In order to pray aright, we must enter into the closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material senses. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God’s allness. We must resolve to take up the cross, and go forth with honest hearts to work and watch for wisdom, Truth, and Love. We must “pray without ceasing.” Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice. The Master’s injunction is, that we pray in secret and let our lives attest our sincerity.”
Sometimes we may not have the luxury of getting away by ourselves to get that mental quiet we so desperately yearn for. But, even in what might seem like the chaos of the moment, it’s never too late to calm our thinking and become spiritually receptive. We do have a choice over what thoughts we entertain and can shut out anything we know is not coming from the Divine.
That’s what happened to me one time when I was driving. I had just moved to a large city and was driving on a busy major highway. All of a sudden, the noise of the traffic, the intensity of the city, seemed overwhelming and I began to panic I might lose control. There was nowhere to turn aside and collect my thoughts. But, then I realized that I could resist these fears and put them down. I could go into my mental closet and shut the door.
Some ideas from the 23rd Psalm came to me. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:” The imagery of those verses brought immediate calm. I was being led to lie down in green pastures, away from the noise, chaos, and barrenness of city life– to become spiritually nourished and recharged by divine Love. The still waters were present with me to refresh and inspire me no matter where I was because divine Spirit was everywhere. Right then, I knew I could feel safe, cared for, and regain my spiritual dominion. The fearful thoughts vanished and I was able to continue the drive without a problem.
We all have the spiritual capacity to quiet our thinking and get into a still mental space where we can commune with God. This allows us to have access to those “unique thoughts” in divine consciousness that lift us into the heart of prayer where, like my friend, Kate, we can find healing solutions.
Valerie Minard writes regularly on the connection between consciousness, spirituality, and health. She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in New Jersey. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @valerieminard.