Do you make room for stillness in your life? Our days are stuffed full of tasks, plans, schedules, meetings, work, paying bills, answering emails, business through our smart phones, picking up the kids, music lessons, homework, dinner…the list goes on and on. Messages from a consumer culture, and fast-paced information, contentious politics assault the quiet spaces when we're driving in our car, working in our office, making dinner at home, or sitting down to dinner. We are constantly bombarded with stimuli and rancor. And when we stop, we may worry about the things we still need to do, or should have done. Or exhausted, we may zone out watching TV, play computer games, or surf the intoxicating web. In this way, we lose the compass to our inner selves as the frenetic energy of our lives takes us over, and begins to pilot our lives.
You are not alone if your answer to my stillness question is "no," or "not often." Many of us don't allow ourselves to get quiet, to seek stillness. In fact, we can feel uncomfortable, fidgety, and even guilty when we stop and "do nothing." "Do nothing" is an interesting phrase. Do you feel the judgement within it? We are such a "doing" culture that the pursuit stillness can be see as wasteful and lazy. Yet all the "doing" is often empty of meaning. And we feel the emptiness, although we may not be fully conscious of it.
What I am coming to realize is that the frenzied, empty doing is a consequence of an imbalance in our lives. Making space for peace, for stillness, for quiet, for looking deeply within ourselves is largely lost in our culture. (Although, I do think many are waking up to this need to rebalance). It is largely lost, and we deeply, desperately need it. It is precisely what we need to cultivate to find wholeness, and to find meaning in our lives.
The paradox is that we must fill the "emptiness," with stillness, listening, and receptivity. This may feel like "nothing." But it in this letting go--"emptying"-- that we find fullness. It is where we find our deeper selves. It can restore balance that is found in a dynamic flow that move us from action and to receptivity and back again in a more organic way. Then our actions are informed from our true and deep authentic selves.
Our cultural paradigm, our Western, mechanistic construct of the world doesn't help in this matter. Often it can limit our perspective and orientation in the world. Ironically, we are a culture of "doers," but we insist on seeing the world statically. Our actions are therefore based on rigid, segmented constructions of the world around us. We define, and put into tidy categories, the world and our relationships in life. We concretize them so that we can calculate, measure, and master them. Our actions under this paradigm come out of the desire to control, to conquer and manipulate to suite our wants and desires, our presumed needs. The paradigm often presumes scarcity, and it presumes danger in what we cannot control or define. This paradigm--this orientation to the world--can generate disconnection from our deepest intuitive selves, and it can generate fear. When we are fearful, we don't act from an place of inner stillness, from self-knowledge, from the sense of our interconnectedness to others and to nature.
So, instead, let us work to cultivate wholeness and inner-knowledge. After all, each of us holds great treasures within. They need only to be discovered, to be excavated and brought into the light. So, let us take time to look within, take time for stillness. Take time, WITHOUT APOLOGY, to seek stillness, and let it fill you up…fill you up with nothing. It is everything.
The practice: Create quiet moments of reflection and peace every day, even if it is 15 minutes to begin with. Making a practice of waking up 15 minutes earlier or find 15 minutes at other parts of the day that work naturally for you. You can follow your breathing, or listen to music with pure tones (like Native American Flute Music) that helps bring you into deep stillness. Find the self behind the thoughts, worries, and feelings. Watch the fluidity of those thoughts and worries flow past you. No judging, just be gentle and let them flow away, over and over again.
Sometimes I have found it helpful to write meditatively in my journal to get started…to write what I am letting go of…to write as if the energy of all my worries and fears flows out, like the ink, out of my pen, out of my being, onto the paper. In this kind of emptying; I am made full. Be gentle on yourself in this process. It is an ongoing process, just immerse yourself in the process of letting go, of finding stillness, of tuning into you. In this way, we can slowly discover our inner compass, and learn to pilot our own lives. You deserve this space you are creating!
Take very good care,
Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Passages and Pathways, Counseling and Personal Growth