"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 can still be 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.
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.” Aah, okay, much easier. I could work with that.
Years later we continue to riff on "beaning" and have fun with it. I, in turn, am much more in tune with the need to “just be”. I’m not always great at it, but my anxiety has lessened.
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 came 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 gave this mistaken definition of productivity 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.”
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 wisdom.
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!
But, here is what I have discovered:
Claim small moments of just being.
Tell that voice to be quiet.
Be curious about what shows up.
Accept, without judgement, the offerings of the world.
Watch them "roll in ecstasy at your feet".
Can you just be? Or, maybe, just bean.
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Kathy Kane blogs about the creative process in the everyday, in writing and in the magical transition to the second half of life.
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