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Strength in Stillness
by Patricia SpadaroBozeman, MT


LabyrinthStillness creates strength.

Does that seem like a paradox to you? It did to me the first time I encountered that concept, but that’s because I had long been convinced of the myth that staying busy and constantly running to do more means I am strong—and successful.

Success is not defined by how much I can cram into a day. The adrenaline surge we get from moving at fast speeds can give us a high for a while, but movement alone will not keep us at our peak or, in the long run, make us happy. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that hours of activity must be balanced with space for stillness.

Why? Chronic busyness without taking time to renew yourself—your body, your mind, and your spirit—is like driving a car that’s almost out of gas and pretending the tank is full. You can push the pedal to the metal for a few more miles, and even run on fumes for a bit, but then the engine sputters and spits—and splat, you’re stranded. (And when it comes to our bodies, it’s not always a simple matter of filling up the tank and we’re on the road again. If we push our bodies and minds too hard for too long and don’t balance work with rest and renewal, it may take a while to get up and running again.)

Better to fill up your internal energy reserves before your tank is empty. And one of the best ways to do that is to simply be still. Not easy to do in these jam-packed days when our minds, bombarded by constant stimulation and pressure, are more like jumping beans or, as Eastern wisdom describes it, like monkeys who can’t sit still. The incessant chase and chatter won’t stop unless we realize what the great sages taught centuries ago: the stillness we most need and long for is stillness of mind. Constant mental cogitation, worrying, planning, questioning, analyzing, and then more worrying—these can tax our energy resources much more than we realize.

There is a time for action and a time for stillness, a time to take in new ideas and a time to be quiet and listen to the voice of inner truth (by whatever name you call it) that speaks within you. That’s what the sages tell us. Take, for example, this advice from the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of wisdom: “Restlessness as an enduring condition brings misfortune.” And this from the Taoist master Chuang Tze: “Fortune and blessing gather where there is stillness.”

Even the indefatigable Mother Teresa acknowledged that renewal is a prerequisite for strength. Like the “contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions” who sought solitude and silent communion, “we too are called to withdraw at certain intervals,” she said. For it is in those quiet moments that we “accumulate the inward power which we distribute in action.”

Invite a Creative Pause into Your Day

In the ebb and flow of your week, do you invite nurturing moments of stillness? Do you allow your mind to rest—without the demands and dictates of your lengthy to-do list? Do give yourself permission to just be— to savor the moment and not worry about what you want to have happen in the future or are afraid will happen next?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to affirm each day with the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore: “There are tracts in my life that are bare and silent. They are the open spaces where my busy days had their light and air.”

Taking time out to create open spaces for stillness is not just essential to staying sane; it’s the key that opens the door to your inner creativity. Tending to details and taking action are important, but to be really effective we need to insert a pause into our day. Those pauses for “light and air” are interludes where you can open to the inner promptings that are trying to bubble up from the wellspring deep within you.

If you don’t welcome those moments of stillness, how can you hear the whispers of your soul, telling you of the endless possibilities that await you?

For Your Reflection on Creating Space for Stillness . . .

• Have you experienced the paradox that stillness is what gives you more strength and power? How?

• Think about your schedule for the coming week. How can you intentionally create interludes of stillness? (Quiet time alone, meditation, listening to calming music, playing an instrument, practicing yoga or Chi Gung, walking in nature, holding a sleeping infant in your arms, visiting a sacred place?)

• How can you help your partner and the important people in your life make time for the stillness they need too? They will love you for giving them breathing room—and when you each take time to get in touch with your own sacred space in your own way, you will have more to offer each other when you come back together again.

Copyright © Patricia Spadaro

GarveyPatricia Spadaro is the author of the award-winning book Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, an inspiring guide to giving your best gifts by learning to honor your own needs, celebrate your unique voice, and let go of painful endings. She is dedicated to empowering others to live more deeply, fully, and authentically. Patricia’s books are available nationwide and have been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide. To learn more, visit her at www.HowToHonorYourself.com