silence keepers

silence keepers

Sitting here, on the couch, listening to the clock tick, makes me wonder if I am afraid of silence; of being idle; of stillness.  I always encourage others to cultivate that empty space – that quiet well – for themselves, but do I do it for myself? The pull to constantly be reading or figuring out a problem or checking for a message or writing a blog post (*ahem) or vacuuming or making something better, or cleaner, or more worthwhile…the pull to be productive in some form – to be doing something, always – is strong.  Sometimes almost always, it’s too strong, and I give in to the pull; the allure of constant engagement or stimulation or growth or value creation.  The desire to always have something to show for how I am spending my time.  Proof of worth.  Validation that I am thinking or doing important things that matter.  Ensuring I am making something of myself.   Being the one who always knows the answer or who can figure it out, or refer you to someone who can. Continue reading “silence keepers”

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On Being

On Being

When I was trained as a coach 8.5 years ago, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the emphasis on helping a person see who they are “being” – that is to say, helping each individual look past the surface doings into how he/she is showing up and how that way of being is effecting their choices.

I read an article by coach and writer Danielle van de Kemenade this morning, and her words resonated with me a lot:

The biggest impact I’ve been able to make in my clients’ lives is on their states of being rather than changed acts of doing. The coaching paradigm itself is perhaps the best way of exemplifying the belief in doing as a primary method to achieving a better way of being. After each session, I’ll ask my clients to come up with five things they’ll do between our sessions to start to move towards greater personal well-being.

Fundamental to all of the above seems to be this thought: I’ll be a better, happier, more fulfilled person through more (focused) doing. I do (or have done), therefore I am. And yet, lately my views on this have started to shift, subtly.

Perhaps one of humanity’s challenges this century won’t necessarily be to do more better and faster, but to refine our ways of being and to let our actions flow from this.

On one hand you might think, “Wait, that doesn’t quite jive with what we are trying to do with small steps.  Isn’t the goal to help people make tiny changes that will eventually lead to lasting health improvements and better well being?” Continue reading “On Being”

Productivity Doesn’t Equal Worth

Productivity Doesn’t Equal Worth

Productivity doesn’t equal worth.  Right?  Deep down, I know this statement it absolutely true.  At the core, each living being on earth is of infinitely more value than can be measured or quantified.  Each person, or creature, or plant, or river is so much more than whatever is accomplished or produced in a lifetime.  Yet we have a hard time accepting this.  We see our land-base as a commodity more often than we see it as a partner in life.  We tend to use water and air and soil for our own gain with little thought beyond what our actions might mean for someone across the world or a child born three generations from now.  Often we mean well and even start to change our ways, but then life gets hard and it’s easier not to.  We slip back into believing that more is better and that getting ahead and making the grade is what’s important.  We start to see high productivity as the ideal and we lose faith in believing that it really isn’t when we are trying to tell the truth and the people who have the power to create change don’t believe.  Or don’t want to.

I say I am trying to be ok with mediocrity.  In another blog post recently, I wrote,

I’ve recognized that if I’m going to stay in my day job and thrive as a human being, mediocrity is my new goal for success.  It’s hard to let old tendencies of wanting to be a top performer or make good grades or always receive glowing reviews go.  But I’ve realized that, at least in my current life and work situation, being a top performer isn’t what matters to living the life that I want to live.

Continue reading “Productivity Doesn’t Equal Worth”

Sabbath

Sabbath

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t do anything.  And by “anything” I mean I didn’t do anything that I would typically count as “productive.”  I wasn’t at work, and my two year old was napping.  I didn’t cook dinner, I didn’t do the laundry, I didn’t work on any projects, I didn’t practice yoga, I didn’t plan the upcoming weekend.  I didn’t do any of the things that I usually do when I have an hour or two of time on my hands.  Instead I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and looked out the window.   The lake was glassy and starting to reflect the late afternoon sunset as dusk claimed ownership of the day’s light.  The wind of earlier in the day was starting to settle, and the newly fallen leaves lay still, a carpet of yellow and orange and red on the ground.  At one point a seagull called out and circled the lake, a spot of bright white against the muted, hazy tones of the landscape.  Everything was quiet.

At first I felt that familiar sense of guilt for not using my time to address the next item on the never ending task list – in the fall, it’s even longer than usual with the seasonal tasks of gathering firewood, putting up the last of the garden produce, getting the garden ready for winter, raking leaves, winterizing motors, and all the other things that need to happen for a rural household to welcome the winter elements in Minnesota.   And there are of course the tasks of daily life always waiting in the wings: Food to prepare, dishes to wash, floors to clean, errands to run.  It is all too easy to fall prey to the energy of guilt, self condemnation and plain old worry.

“What if I’m not ready for what comes next?”

“What if I fail to do what my loved ones expect/need me to do?”

“What if we never finish the list?”

Well.  These questions, much like the dreaded “list” could go on for pages.  For all the questions that I could come up with, the answer – if I’m really being truthful with myself – is, “So what?” As I was sitting there, looking over the lake and taking in the stillness of the moments as they passed, I was somehow able to see over the what ifs into the present.  I could see that my taking an hour to just sit still and be wasn’t going to lead to the demise of ……….. well, anything.  Perhaps it will take one more day to get all the apples turned into sauce.   Perhaps the leaves will pile up and mat down the grass for more days in a row than would be ideal.  Perhaps while I sip my wine,  a detail will slide by into oblivion, never to be attended to.   Perhaps the world will go on.

I wouldn’t want to have day after day of sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine.  Things will still need to get accomplished,  and I will still be happier when the dishes are clean, I’ve practiced yoga and the laundry is folded instead of in a heap on the bed.   But taking time to just sit and be with the quiet of an afternoon is necessary, too.  Most of us need to feel like things are getting done to be content – but we also need to observe time for rest so we can work another day.  After all, isn’t that what we are working for?  To be in the world in a way that invites contentment and peace for all living things?  Maybe we need to remember to observe what we are working toward in the first place.

How can you build a Sabbath into your week?

Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.  Wendell Berry