Friday, February 11, 2011

On cultivating stillness

This morning in Brene Brown's book,  The Gifts of Imperfection, I am reading about the importance of cultivating calm and stillness -- and they are not, as you might think, the same thing.

Brown defines calm as "creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity"  -- as in, staying calm in a crisis; maintaining equilibrium in situations where your natural tendency is to fly off the handle.

Stillness, on the other hand, is more about meditation; making time in your day to be still.  And if meditation is still something  you have trouble imagining yourself doing, I think you'll appreciate her definition of the kind of stillness she's speaking of:  "Stillness," she says, "is not about focusing on nothingness; it's about creating a clearing.  It's opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question."

Stillness is not about tying yourself to a chair and forcing yourself to empty your mind for 20 minutes.  Stillness is about grace, and acceptance; about giving yourself time, each day, to listen to where your heart is taking you.

Sometimes I think the reason our minds seem so cluttered all the time is because they're like small children clamoring for attention: the more you ignore them, the louder and more insistent and more rambunctious they become.  Stillness is about honoring all those voices in your head, making time for yourself and your thoughts, creating a safe space where what needs to be said can be heard, where what needs to be expressed can be felt.

Yes, sometimes there's some divine input that falls into that quiet.  But mostly there are all those thoughts clamoring. By observing, acknowledging, and releasing them, and choosing to return to the stillness, we are inviting all the parts of us to be heard and valued, and at the same time inviting each of them to join us in that peace.

It is only in stillness that we can get an accurate reflection of what needs to be heard.  And it is only in stillness that we can stare into the depths of the shadows, and see how rich and beautiful that darkness could be.


Maureen said...

I'm hopeful that it will be in stillness that Egypt honors its people. So exciting today!

Kathleen Overby said...

Purring here.