There continues to be a lot going on out in the big world. Perhaps in your close-in world as well. It seems that every day I need to remind myself to pause, take a breath, and simply be present with whatever is getting my attention in that moment. When it’s something in my close-in world, it’s a practice in not trying to fix or solve. When it’s something out in the big world, it’s a practice in not becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of what is happening and feeling that there is nothing I can do. Finding stillness and quiet in a noisy and reactive world can give us space to take a breath. And that’s a start.
Finding stillness and quiet may not always be easy. Sometimes it means carving out time in an overly full schedule—consciously making time and space for stillness and quiet. It’s a choice, and not always a convenient one, given our responsibilities, circumstances, and expectations—our own as well as others’.
Yet carving out even just 15 minutes can be vital to our well-being. Stillness and quiet nourish the soul. And when we nourish the soul, we strengthen our capacities for meeting whatever life brings us.
Stillness and quiet is a first step that can open a door towards more conscious living.
Lessons in Presence from the New York Subway
I lived in New York City from 1988 to 2003. My subway stop was Broadway and 103rd Street. It was a local station, not express, so every few minutes express trains came barreling through the station without slowing down. As I stood on the platform waiting for the local train, the frequent thunderous roar of the express trains felt like an assault on my system.
At some point, I became aware of how much energy I was spending physically and emotionally trying to brace myself against the assault, trying to fend off the noise. My body was tense all over, I stopped breathing, and I was doing my best to shut down my senses. Somehow I thought this would make it better.
Until one day I realized that, in fact, I was making it worse. The noise was the predator and I was not going to be the victim. I was in full resistance mode. And my stress level was getting higher and higher!
I started to wonder what might happen if I stopped resisting and let the thunderous roar of the express trains wash through me. Instead of trying to shut down my senses, I began to practice opening my system to the moment even more. I stopped resisting the sound and allowed it to pass through me as waves of energy.
To my great surprise, the noise became easier to bear. I discovered that if I didn’t push against what was happening, the situation left less residue in my system than when I braced against the noise. Amazing.
Over the next few weeks, the roar of the trains had less and less impact on my well-being. I became increasingly aware that by making more conscious and intentional choices about how I responded to situations and circumstances, I could be present in a more productive and constructive way.
Push Against or Partner With
That experience taught me a lot about our Transformational Presence concept of “Push Against or Partner With.” We can learn to be present with what is happening without immediately reacting. We can take a breath and be present with events and circumstances from a quiet place inside. I’m not suggesting that we should let situations run us over. I’m saying that we can choose to listen, sense, and feel what is important for us to pay attention to in that moment. And then we can consciously choose our response.
We’ve been faced with a lot of distressing news and alarming situations. When we can remain anchored in stillness and quiet as we first hear the news, we have a better chance of letting the situation show itself to us. Jumping right away into reaction, assumptions, interpretation, and opinion is rarely helpful. What we first see or hear is almost never the full story. There are likely to be many layers, perhaps contradictions, and probably some unknowns.
Pausing even for a few minutes can allow the initial impact of the situation to soften enough for us to be able to take a breath and be present with the moment. We can then begin to sense what the situation is asking for, at least as a first step, and what immediate role it is asking us to play. By pausing to listen, sense, and feel, something shifts in our relationship to what is happening. We become less driven by feelings and emotions, and more objective in our sensing of what the situation is really about.
Stillness and Quiet Opens a Door to Wisdom and Guidance
What is happening on the surface is rarely the real issue. It’s only a symptom or a manifestation of a deeper energy that is breaking open down underneath. When we can tap into that deeper energy, we are very close to the wisdom and guidance within the situation itself that can lead us forward. There are messages everywhere if we pay attention. For most of us, it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a practice.
Which takes us back to where we started. Finding stillness and quiet in a noisy and reactive world. This practice makes it more possible to tap into the deeper wisdom and guidance. And that guidance can show us our next step.
Related Blog Posts:
- How much can you hold in your heart? Maybe more than you think.
- Finding Deep Presence in the Midst of Crisis—A Letter from India
- More and More I Have Less and Less to Say
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