It’s 12:43 AM on a Wednesday morning and I’m sitting here writing this week’s post. The night air is getting cool, so I lit the fire pit. It’s light, along with the candles lining the perimeter of the deck illuminate my work area. The cicadas and crickets provide an almost white background noise, and periodically I will hear the sounds of a truck rumbling down a nearby highway. A police car passes by and flashes his lights in greeting. I imagine he is asking himself, “What in the hell is that guy doing out at this hour of the night?” The answer is simple, I am enjoying the stillness.
Prior to retiring I recall conversations with colleagues who were now enjoying “life on the other side”. There was a common theme, “I don’t know how I did it all, I’m busier now than when I was working!” I think a busy life is a good life; some might say it is a complete life! But the reality is our lives can become too busy. When the busyness of our lives begins to interfere with what is really important, our relationships – with family, with friends, with God – then we need to pause, take a break, and find the stillness that will give us direction, and lets us find the peace within that serves to rejuvenate and guide our continued journey.
Life is challenging! The political, racial, and economic polarization with which we live today has not been seen in generations. Work consumes us; annually over 200 million vacation days are forfeited. Our on-line life is ever present with the average American spending 2 hours and 15 minutes daily on social media (for a 10 year-old with a projected lifespan of 72, that number becomes 6 years, 8 months of their life surfing the web). Young parents are still paying off their college debt as they begin to save for their children’s future, while many seniors put off retirement or return to work because of financial pressures. For some the challenge is too much! Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. The use of opioids has become an epidemic, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are increasing. Life is not only challenging, it can be overwhelming!
Our world is in constant motion and time has become our most precious commodity! There are appointments that must be kept, and commitments to be honored. There was a time in history when leaving work for the day, or taking a vacation meant just that, a separation from the work environment. Now it simply means going mobile for the night or during vacation. Even our smart watches don’t like idle time, as they continually remind us to “breath”, “stand” or ”move” so that we can meet our daily exercise goal. So, with all these demands, with everything that is happening, where is the stillness?
Place and times of stillness can be created. While it would be wonderful for each of us to have the luxury of allocating 30 minutes a day in a Zen-like environment (mountainside, beach, a meadow of blooming flowers, etc), it’s not realistic for many. At the same time, stillness can be created in the simplest of settings. Melli O’Brien a mindfulness coach and blogger proposes that stillness can be found:
When the house is quiet and there is nothing pressing to do.
In those moments when you find yourself sitting in relative peace.
When you’re waiting at a traffic light or in a line or even in a traffic jam.
In a brief moment under a tree.
After you get into your car and before starting the engine.
By taking a short pause before sending an email.
By punctuating our day will little moments of stillness, we provide an opportunity to pause, check-in, and find that coveted calm which is already inside us, but has been worn down by the demands of an already busy life.
Give yourself permission and the opportunity to enjoy moments of stillness – to embrace them and be nourished by them. Let them help you rewrite a positive, loving, and inspiring narrative that will guide your life. Remember, the story that you are writing has a hero; it is you!