Day 219 (Jul 17): What does it mean to “be still”?

For the past few weeks, I have been unwilling to continue the endless pushing that seemed to have become a part of my daily life. My mornings had become a stressful, rushed process of the many tasks I need to do before I leave for work – or at least thinkI need to do before I start to work. The litany of tasks looks something like this:

From table to bed…

Get up. Migrate alarm clock to the desk/table (where I can see it more easily). Make the bed. Migrate the piles on my desk to the bed. Gather my two bags – one with my lunchbox, the other with my cereal bowl and ingredients – and take them to the kitchen. Head to the bathroom to brush my teeth, shower and dress. (I leave my clothes for work in the bathroom at night. One less things to schlep in the morning.) Take my pj’s and other things back to my room. Go to the kitchen to fix/cook my breakfast and prepare my lunch. Gather my bags (lunchbox now full), breakfast and glass of water and go back to my room. Eat my breakfast while I do my morning journal reflection. Take my dishes back to the kitchen if I have time to wash them. (Otherwise, they wait in my room till I return home later in the day.) Brush my teeth, finish dressing, organize my things and head out for my day.

Btw, every time I go from my room to the bathroom or the kitchen, I have to pass my aunt and uncle’s room, where they are (hopefully) still sleeping peacefully. Thus my mornings are about doing a number of tasks as quietly as possible, including repeatedly tiptoeing down a hopelessly squeaky hallway in hopes that I do not awaken them, because all of this starts at 4:45 a.m.

On a good morning, I can get all this done in just over two hours – if I’m efficient and what I’m fixing for breakfast and for lunch doesn’t take too long to prepare. It takes more than a couple of minutes to make a sandwich or to cut up a few fresh veggies. I’ve given up cooking the kind of breakfast my body most appreciates and have settled for having a bit of meat (for the protein) and hot cereal most mornings.

Time to write…reflect…

In other words, the beginning of my day, most days, is the quintessential opposite of “being still.” Because things like traffic and parking come into play, leaving early is a primary concern of mine, so everything hinges on my departure time. Thus, even when I do have the time to do my morning reflection, I feel “under the gun,” watching the clock, shortening up my reflection, rarely having time to really hold still and listen.

As I put on my current favorite necklace this morning, a small metal disk with the words “Be still” on it, I found myself wondering, What does it mean to “be still”?

Does it mean doing nothing? Does it mean more slowly “rushing” about so it doesn’t feel so rushed? Does it mean dropping things from the routine even when they are important things? (I’ve wrestled with the change to my morning reflection time, for example, where I used to take as long as an hour and have time to write two reflections. Now, many mornings, I barely complete one.) Or does it mean focusing on what I’m doing so “precious” seconds aren’t lost in daydreaming? Or is it possible to let my mind “wander” in conversation with God while I perform tasks (hoping I remember what I’m doing)?

I’ve noticed that when I’m experiencing serenity, I can be surprisingly efficient. Worry isn’t crowding in to clutter my thoughts and derail my efforts at getting things done quickly. When my mind wanders down the path of fear, I forget what I’m doing and have to go back to do this or that because I forgot it in my distraction. But serenity isn’t a switch I can simply flip to the “on” position when I need it. It takes practice and, for me, it requires a desire for serenity that outweighs the temptation to worry.

I would be most interested to hear of your experiences of what it means to “be still.” Have you thought about it a lot? Have you practiced it? How do you practice “being still”? Or is it, like it is for me at times, something you aspire to and only occasionally experience, wanting more?

…to listen…

I may not be here as often these days, with internet access still found in places other than my own computer. But I’m here, and I’d love to hear from you.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wyomingjen
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 18:22:32

    Hi L,

    I read your post yesterday and have been percolating the ideas overnight. I thought I would share my thoughts with you in hopes that they spark something for you.

    Be Still. I remember going to a youth retreat where the focus was on that verse. “Be Still…and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I still remember the calm fall days, the quiet walks to dinner and the contrast with the crazy world of hundreds of teenagers all together. And that was 13 years ago!

    For me, the concept of being still has less to do with how much I do, and more about how I feel about what I am doing. When I am in a space that is comfortable for me – where I don’t have to be “on” all the time – I am stiller. When I have trimmed away as much of the unpleasant activities as possible – I am stiller. When I have time that is loud, but other time that is also quiet to contrast – I am stiller.

    The harder I try to achieve that stillness, the further away it goes. I find the serenity (I love your word there) when I am living my life in a way that makes me happy. I am NOT a pro at it…I’m not even a very good beginner. But I have done a lot of things that take away from that stillness, so I know what doesn’t work for ME.

    My goal/plan/idea is to fill my life with people, places and activities that make me happy. Even though I may be busy, I will have the inner stillness that I desire because I am fulfilled.

    I hope that you find stillness – even for just a moment – every day. J

    Reply

    • Lucia
      Jul 26, 2012 @ 10:27:13

      As I read your comment, I kept saying, “Exactly!” I think you’re exactly right when you say that being still is more about how we feel about what we’re doing than how much we’re doing. I’ve had that experience of letting go, letting myself be led from one task to the other, and ultimately having a wonderfully serene and surprisingly productive time. It might not have looked like I was “being still” to someone observing when, in fact, that ‘stillness’ was the foundation upon which I was building my time.

      I love your observation about stillness moving farther away the harder you try to achieve it. For myself, I can’t “pursue” it without doing the opposite of being still. I also love your intention to seek those things which make you happy. It reminded me of something a friend recently shared. She said she has these “minimum daily requirements” for herself: food, shelter, water and JOY! It sounds like what you are seeking is “joy” – that deeply satisfying experience of happiness that goes beyond the surface and brings us to life.

      Thank you for your wisdom, dear friend! Hugs!

      Reply

  2. Rhonda Ludwig
    Jul 20, 2012 @ 21:07:27

    My dear friend, How I miss our talks. You know how busy of a brain I have always had. Wow! Be still hit me between the eyes tonight. I love being reminded to “Be Still…..” So much of our lives are in turmoil, some from outside forces out of our control, none the less… turmoil.
    I have had several very difficult lessons these past few years about faith, being still, and letting go and letting God have the reins. This is one issue that we both have shared. I still struggle but am doing far better.
    Being still, I do believe, is not just a motion or lack there of, but a state of mind. It can be little more than enjoying writing your blog. He gives us direction in the least expected ways. So much to tell you and I don’t wish to share on the blog.
    So glad you found me on facebook and directed me on how to get in touch with you. I pray for your (and my serenity). Forgive my misspellings I am tired and simply want to write you. If you feel that you have to “pencil in quiet time” it will never happen. Remember how people once said that they would have children when they could afford them. Funny isn’t it that when the children came along, it always worked out. Maybe not as easily or smoothly as we would like but it worked out. The same, my dear friend, is for the you time. You will burn out and lose your passion if you grind away and do not be spontaneous for you. I’m still hear when you are ready for a glass of ice tea and a phone conversation. Much love, Always, Rhonda

    Reply

    • Lucia
      Jul 26, 2012 @ 10:18:03

      How wonderful to hear from you, Rhonda! Thank you so much for your affirmation of what it means to “be still.” Sometimes it truly pushes against what most of the world around us is telling us we “should” be doing. But when we have the courage to listen and “be still” when that’s what God wants of us, I’m discovering that good things happen!
      Hugs!

      Reply

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