Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday's Reflection: Stillness

The idea for this post came to me on a day I was not feeling well. I felt heavy and cloudy, as if I were sleepwalking. I imagined myself as an ice cube tray full of water being carried from the faucet to the refrigerator. Please don't spill me. I wanted to slip myself into an envelope and be invisible. I wanted to be a button as it is slid into a loop where I would feel held, but not tightly, just securely. 

I yearned for stillness. 

I yearn for stillness.

Stillness in Nature
As we drove once again from St Paul to Madison, I could sense the earth at rest. This is not the time for action, but a time to become still, to lie fallow, to lie in wait. Only the day before had the wind pushed the remaining leaves on the trees to let go, and they gushed, rushed, whirled, creating liquid gold on city lawns and streets. 

The next day the wind itself was still, reminding the earth that it is time to meditate. This was the stillness before we could even ask, "What now?" "What's next?"

I have felt in that gushing, rushing whirling state for the past months as we plowed our way through the many tasks of moving my father and then ourselves into a home in St Paul while still maintaining our Madison home. There have been so many times I have felt the way I do when walking a labyrinth, and I sense the entrance to the center is near.  Much to my surprise, however, the path swings me far away from the center. The path loops around once again, for apparently it is not time yet to enter the center.  It is not yet time to be in that place, to receive the gifts of being in the center. 

My job as I loop around following the path is to remain balanced. To find the stillness within, even as I continue on the path. 

The Need for Stillness
I have always liked Monday mornings, the feeling of starting anew, of plotting just how to accomplish everything that must be done. It all seems possible as I make my list. I feel in control--until the unexpected. What had looked like a spacious week, suddenly was filling in ways that at first glance seemed unproductive, ways that would take time away from crossing tasks off my list. Ok, I will access my flexible side, I told myself, whichever side that turns out to be. I was resigned, until I couldn't find my little notebook with my lists for the upcoming move--phone numbers and other notations I stored there, rather than in my head. Only Monday morning, and I had lost control.

What to do? At those times there is really nothing left to do, but move into stillness, and that's what I did. 

I stretched out on the chaise in the den and took several deep breaths. I placed my hands, palms facing upwards on my lap, and closed my eyes. I let the stillness descend on me, and I opened to the stillness within. I could hear the action of the washer and dryer upstairs and also the construction noise outside. Yes, it is possible to be still, even when the world around you is not silent. 

I noticed my breathing and could feel myself finding my own rhythm. I entered this time with no expectation of great insight or with any expectations. Not even with the hope that when I re-entered the agenda of the day I would miraculously find my little notebook. Sitting in stillness is good for its own sake. 

Stillness When None is Available
Here it is the first week of December, and the desire for stillness seems totally incongruous with the busyness of the month. Whose idea was it anyway to cram so many holidays into such a short period of time? Wouldn't Halloween or Thanksgiving have been enough, but no, for those of us who celebrate Christmas, which is only 22 days away, these are busy, bustling times.   

How does one find or create stillness in such busy days when the extras of holiday activities are added onto the normal everyday routines of life? 

This is exactly the time when stillness is a necessity; when it is crucial, not just important, to carve out moments of stillness. It is time to push the pause button. 

Take a deep breath wherever you are and whatever you are doing and invite calm and stillness to enter your body through every pore. Stand completely still, but breathe naturally for just a few seconds, longer if you can. Notice your body's gratitude for the brief time out. 

Remember when your children were young and you sent them to their room for a "time out." Well, we are the ones who need a time out. Take one. Now. 

Oh, and by the way, I did find my little "moving" notebook.

December's Meditation
The theme for this month's meditation, which I will post on Thursday, is "stillness." I hope it will help you find that still place within, even during these busy days. 

An Invitation
What are your challenges with being still? Do you always need to be doing something? Do you know what it feels like to be still? If you practice stillness, what are the fruits? I invite your comments.


  1. Dear Nan - First read through I read the following "What had looked like a spacious week, suddenly was filling in ways that at first glance seemed unproductive.."
    as unprotected... Yes, protect some timeout. xxo

  2. Perfect! Such good and needed advice! Thanks.


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