A Wish Come Clear

Choosing Love, Losing Fear, & Finding Home

Stop Rushing and Start Living (Even If You Prize Productivity)

The Zen Master of Sacred Dawdling (aka Bootsie)

This morning, I find myself wanting just this: to sit on the sofa and stare out the window. Sacred dawdling, as Sue Monk Kidd calls it. When I first read those words, I thought, Dawdling as sacred? Really?

But it is sacred, because it is an act of faith. To stop my work, be unproductive, and simply look out into the new day … this requires trust.

When I do this, I feel as though I am coming close to a subversive act.

To sit around? On a Thursday morning at 10am, when I ‘should’ be working? On a Thursday morning at 10am, when in another lifetime (and by that I mean two years ago), I would have been sitting down to a long series of meetings at my former workplace?

Yes.

***

When I sit and stare like this, I feel two forces battling within me. (I suspect you know them well.)

The first force, the deeper, quieter one, says, “Though it may not look that way, this is actually important. This is what you need to be doing right now. This is you telling the truth.

In the long run, stillness is going to bring you farther than constant motion ever could. This time is deceptively simple, and surprisingly powerful. Just wait and see.”

The other force – which is louder and more aggressive – says: “What are you doing? There is no time for this! Get off your butt! Write! Be productive! Contribute to society, to your business, to your bottom line!”

I believe that taking time for yourself helps people around you, that one person’s stillness can contribute to a community. Yet in some ways, holding to this truth becomes difficult when I lead a quieter life. The ‘result’ of my stillness is elusive; it takes faith to believe in its importance.

And so I sit amidst the cacophony within. The late morning light is beautiful; the cat, curled up at the end of the sofa, is too. My body relaxes into the couch, into the moment.

For a time, I forget the forces and the shoulds and should nots. For a time, I just … am. I am just me.

I get up eventually; perhaps ten minutes have passed. And as I stand I think: That didn’t take so long after all. And also: I don’t think I want a life in which I can’t just sit and be for ten minutes.

***

Every day presents us with a choice. Every day, we will come up against that critical, worried part of ourselves that judges our ‘performance’ minute by minute. But with practice in the art of sacred dawdling – just 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there– we will be better equipped to fight.

And by fight, I mean surrender, because that is the only way I have found to win the war against the harpy in my head. To her, I say, gently: “Yes, you are absolutely right. I accept your every harsh word.

You have a point. I am doing nothing of measurable value right now. This worries you to no end, and I understand that. You are a part of me, after all. But even so, it will be all right. It will be all right because not everything that has worth can be measured.

Or, in Einstein’s words, ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’”

After all, how can I ‘count’ the value of listening to my husband as he shares a story about his day? Or the value of the pages I write in my journal, which aren’t meant for any eyes but mine?

There is no ‘profit’ that comes from spending two hours with my friend and her newborn baby … no profit, that is, except a sense of awe and wonder, a feeling of deep gratitude for being alive.

There is nothing except everything … everything that really matters in the end.

***

Is it a challenge for you to choose stillness? Join the conversation in the comments!

***

Thank you for your comments and emails in response to the last post! The list of people, situations, and concerns has served as a daily reminder for me to offer light rather than fear darkness. In fact, your responses inspired an idea for a new, forthcoming series here at A Wish Come Clear!

“Spend It Offering Light” will feature stories of real people turning their fears into something that helps others, into light. In the weeks to come, I look forward to introducing you to some amazing writers. Interested in submitting a story? Contact me at caroline[at]awishcomeclear[dot]com for details.

***

Upcoming Speaking Engagements:

April 4-5: Keynote Speaker at Tennessee Adult Brothers & Sisters (TABS) Conference, Nashville, TN

April 23-24: Keynote Speaker at Arc of Illinois Convention, Lisle, IL

Stories around the Web, March 2014:

Leaving Normal: Weekly Column at Autism After 16

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About Caroline McGraw

I'm a would-be childhood paleontologist and recovering perfectionist turned full-time writer, digging for treasure in people and uncovering sacred stories in ordinary days. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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10 Replies

  1. Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes which will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks very much! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Hi Caroline,

    What a great reminder for me. With my focus always on my laptop or smartphone, taking a “time out” to be still for a few minutes can sometimes be the most productive time of my day!

    Alex

    1. Alex, that’s wonderful to hear! Thanks for sharing. And I know what you mean – it’s so helpful to my sanity (and productivity) to step away from the devices for a time. ;)

  3. I try to spend some time each day like you suggest, but some days it doesn’t happen. Doing it early before anything else seems to work best. It’s mental hygiene like brushing your teeth. Your post encourages me.

    1. So true, Dr. Naseef – some days just get away from us. Glad to hear that the post offered encouragement for you. Also, I like the “mental hygiene” imagery!

  4. Donna

    So wonderful!! I really do feel that pets can help in the stillness process- they bring out the calm, like a cat or dog curled up in the sunlight. My dog “reminds” me to take a break consistently.

    1. Such a good point, Mom – pets are good teachers. :) xo

  5. Renee

    Interesting timing of this post for me. I also have a hard time just sitting in silence because my mind is always telling me that I should be doing this, that, or the other thing, rather than sitting still and simply being with myself.

    I have just begun reading a book called “The Untethered Soul,” by Michael A. Singer. The book is about exploring your inner self and learning to quiet/eliminate the never-ending chatter of your psyche, which is always telling you one thing or another and never giving you a moment’s peace. That is the voice you are referring to when you talked about the force telling you to be more productive, contribute to society, to your business, bottom line, etc.

    I’m only 2 chapters in so far, but it’s an interesting, if somewhat complicated read, concept-wise, but it is rarely easy to learn a new way of thinking. Sorry if I got off-topic, but the post reminded me of this book.

    1. What a cool synchronicity, Renee! Thank you for sharing – I always appreciate your insights. I’ll have to check out the book as well, because let’s face it, I could really use some inner quietude. ;)