“Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver
Oh, boy. That’s a hard one for me. How about you?
When I was first confronted with the challenge of “just being” I was very apprehensive. I was going off on a weekend retreat at the beach with two writing buddies. We were going to write and be quiet and “just be.”
“I don’t know if I can do that”, I told my friends. “It feels really hard to not be doing.” A weekend that should have been the ultimate in relaxation was becoming fraught with anxiety.
Being, Beaning, Beaners
They indulged me. You see, they were a lot further along in their being-ness. An ad for a local coffee shop lightened things up by inspiring the alternative of just “beaning”. That, in turn, christened us “Beaners.” Ahh, okay, much easier. I could work with that.
Years later we continue to riff on that moniker and have fun with it. I, in turn, am much more in tune with the need to “just be”. I’m not great at it, but my anxiety has almost disappeared.
The Myth of Productivity
My discomfort stemmed from a belief that I needed to be productive. Constantly. I know how unrealistic this is. At least my head does. However, somewhere in my vast unconscious, this idea has taken up residence and thrived.
I have also come to understand that my idea of productivity might be a little skewed. Multitasking and buzzing around is not always the best use of my time. Ping-ponging between different to-dos in different categories leaves me exhausted and feeling that I’ve haven’t gotten enough done. I have given this mistaken belief of how to be productive its eviction notice.
That space is now occupied by the gentle understanding that being on a walk or being with a thought or being fully with my husband or family gifts me with spaciousness. Ideas arrive, as if on wings. Thoughts are completed. The creative process flows with ease. That is a style of productivity that, while initially counter-intuitive to me, is much more desirable.
I love this quote by Kafka:
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka
What would you have “rolling in ecstasy at your feet?”
“Do not even listen”, he advises. He, too, is saying ignore the imperious voice. When we do that we move out of our head and into our bodies.
How can I do this, you ask, in this fast-paced crazy world we live in? I don’t have time to just sit and wait.
I hear ya!
Here is what I have discovered:
- Just being aware of the fact that it was difficult to sit quietly and be still created a shift for me. I was no longer on auto-pilot. I realized that there could be a different way of being.
- Daydreaming is productive. Who knew! What I like to call wool-gathering was actually a moment of quiet discovery. I began to notice where I was going. The next time you find yourself staring into that mid-distance, allow it. At the same time, be curious about what’s going through your mind. Listen. (Apologies to Kafka)
- Just 3 minutes of meditation is super beneficial. Just one example of the benefits: I had never quite grasped just how impatient I was. Meditation showed me. It also lowered it. When I return to meditation after a lapse, I see it again. I know now that it will dissipate. And, yes, 3 minutes is a reasonable way to start. How long does it take a kettle to boil or a pot of coffee to brew? There you go!
- Practicing quiet opens up a portal from which my inner wisdom flows. Now, if you’re anything like me, your head is a veritable circus. Sometimes, it’s a great place to be with thoughts and ideas careening about. But, that’s not where our true wisdom resides. It lives in the space between the thoughts. For that we need quiet.
- Finally, I have found that curiosity is an important quality. While that might put us back into our heads, it carries no judgement. It provides an opening to what your true self needs at that moment.
And, here’s the challenge:
Where can you claim small moments of just being?
Can you tell that imperious voice in your head to be quiet? Over and over again?
How would it feel to accept without judgement the offerings of world? Be curious about what shows up? Watch them “roll in ecstasy at your feet”?
All of this has a story to tell you. Is it the one you want to carry forward??