Seek the stillness and solitude of the outdoors

Published 2:27 am Friday, June 23, 2023

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Contributing columnist

I may be writing this for myself because I am a bona fide Type A personality, but I’m always engaged in some activity, making lists to check off, with my mind constantly engaged in problem solving or accomplishing some goal. And worthy things do get done for church and family, it can come with the cost of exhaustion, burn out, and self-imposed stress. One way to improve things is to take time to get away to a quiet place and be still for a little while.

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Jesus knew of this. He was constantly bombarded with crowds of people with needs they wanted him to meet. So he “went out and departed to a solitary place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). He also instructed his Disciples about it: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31).

“Be still” in the Bible comes from the Hebrew term “raphah,” which refers to going slack, or to let drop. Solitary places are logically the best location to “not do” for a little while. We are blessed in our area with many places that provide solitude: mountains, forests, rivers, parks and trails. Going to natural places gives you the opportunity to listen to the birds, to think about your surroundings and not some task. Wildflowers, chipmunks, tree bark, just be in the moment. Solitude can be restful to the mind, body, and spirit. Enjoying nature usually leads me to a feeling of gratitude to the creator of it all, and so the verse “be still, and know that I am God” becomes a reality.

Studies have shown that walking in natural areas such as the woods can improve blood pressure, boost mental health, and even decrease cancer risk. But solitude is not easy for some and can be perceived as boring or threatening. But, let me encourage you to try it, even if it’s in your back yard for a few minutes. It can be refreshing for the soul.

Steve Roark is a volunteer at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.