I’ve been stuck with the flu this week. Yep, the flu, not Covid, not a cold. I fought it for a few days, finally feeling miserable to the point of tears, and gave in. Time to follow doctor’s orders – that is, my family’s orders as well as a medical doctor’s – and stop everything and rest. I’ve come to realize that for me, at least, that has to include mental as well as physical stillness. I’ve been noticing a particular lack for a while, but this week it’s been driven home forcefully. I’ve come to rarely practice quiet and stillness within.
There’s always something to do, to think about, to plan, to learn, to listen to. As much as I enjoy and appreciate podcasts and audio books, they circumvent a meditative approach to performing chores. I would not give them up, but I should work in silence more often than I have been lately. I even got to the point that I was listening to something most of the time I was gardening. When I realized I wasn’t fully engaging with nature (duh), I stopped, at least for the most part. One small step in the right direction…
This morning, I picked up a book that I’ve had for a few years and never got around to reading, Gunilla Norris’ Inviting Silence. It's good, but so far, it hasn’t taught me anything new. That might only be because I’ve practiced yoga for almost fifty years, and I can surrender myself in contemplative prayer. But I like the book. I think it would be an excellent introduction to meditation for a beginner. Even for someone as old and wise as I am (wink, wink), it offers great reminders.
Influencers and business coaches encourage us to utilize every spare moment with activity. It’s a pro-active, “don’t waste time” mentality. Standing in line at the store? Check your email, engage with social media. In a waiting room? Make lists, review your agenda. In Inviting Silence, Ms. Norris suggests the opposite, using these moments to take an inner break, that they offer small chunks of time to practice inner silence. Just be there. Personally, I don’t love it, but I can see it as a practical and less intimidating approach to meditation, even if you just try it once a day.
Let’s be clear: taking recourse to inner calm is not wasting time.
But why? Why practice silence? Our brains need it. Our souls need it. If we’re always immersed in – and saturated by -- everything else, we only hear a babble in our heads and feel the jangling of our nerves. Pulsing, pulsing, all so fast, nonstop.
It should stop. We should stop – cease thinking for a moment. We deserve to breathe -- long, deep, fulfilling breaths – and experience true calm.
And we need to be able to be with ourselves – only ourselves – not listening to a book or a podcast or music. I’m not talking about relaxing. Or thinking. Send away every thought. Let a fresh, cool, gentle wind fill your head as you breathe.
I practiced this morning. I’m on the mend, and my head isn’t so stuffy that I can’t not think. Obviously. And I have to say, that little quiet, the brief reconnection to my own breath (which is not just physical but spirit) did wonders.
Wishing you abundant peace and joy.
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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