Sitting in the library on a cold winter day, I am drawn away from my books as I look up into the red rimmed eyes of my friend. Every time she tries to speak tears spill out. Instinctively, I leave my books behind and guide her out the door, into the elevator and onto the busy city streets. We walk in total silence, elbows crooked together, for what seems like hours but is probably only ten or fifteen minutes. As our footsteps trace the concrete blocks of downtown Chicago, the noises and the lights recede as we experience presence together. The longer we walk, the slower her tears come until she was ready, in her own time, to tell the story of loss she had experienced that day.
While the grief and frustration of my friend was important at the time (and eventually resolved) what struck me about that walk was the transformational power of silence. I am grateful for whatever intuition led me to keep my usual bubbling words inside because as we walked and waited, she was able to find a space of calm. My anxiety to “fix” the problem softened and all the distractions easily available to us in the hustle of the city melted away. One stride at a time, one quiet moment after another, there was a growing clarity that all that mattered was this foot step, and this one, and this one, and then this one.
It’s a new year and this is the time when we hear lots of (loud) messages to be better, do more, achieve goals, and just generally pull it together by DOING something. But I want to suggest something different for the year ahead. Do NOTHING. Instead, allow room to BE. Just be. It is in the silence, the pause, the waiting in the face of challenges that the readiness and clarity to do whatever is next comes to us. When we slow down the scripts in our head and let our breath move at its natural pace, insight comes, broken hearts are mended, and inspiration flows.
This invitation feels counter-intuitive because our popular culture screams at us to do anything but pause (and be). We have a choice to lean into the collective fear of doing nothing or to lean into the natural ebb and flow of our lives unfolding effortlessly and with grace. To put it another way, you can make the decision to feed the anxiety and fear or to feed the natural part of you that knows where to go next.
All Who Wander are not Lost
If doing nothing seems completely untenable, let's meet in the middle. One of my commitments for the year is to regularly go for walks. This exercise isn’t for the benefit of the body but rather the stretching of the soul. Slow and quiet walking creates a rhythm in our bodies that allows energy to flow, the mind to slow down, and increases the opportunity to hear the soft whispers of our spiritual depths. I encourage you to do the same. Find time throughout the week to get outside amidst nature. Tune into the natural rhythms of life and of your own heartbeat and see what comes up. Instead of setting a destination of place or time, ease into the idea of wandering and giving your soul some room to play. Author Julia Cameron often encourages her students to walk and ask the question, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if…” as a guide to birth whatever the heart and souls wants to share.
May your journey this year bring you new fountains of joy and may your path be blessed with peace and inspiration.