We live in a fast-paced society where we’re always running from one thing to the next, juggling 12 different text conversations, and trying to find the time to get our work done, eat, sleep, and maybe watch a TV show. With all this running around, it’s not surprising that a lot of us start to burn out! What we need is not more efficiency or better time management (although those things are great); what we need is stillness.
I first heard the catchy quip, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” in one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books and it really struck me because my first reaction was to laugh. As the sentence sunk in, though, I realized that my initial reaction is exactly the point. We take our “doing” so seriously, and we somehow think of “sitting” as synonymous with idleness, laziness, and useless. We have gotten so far into the habit of creating and achieving that the prospect of sitting and simply being seems silly to us. I can really only speak for myself, but I know that I have forgotten how to be completely present in every moment of my life. My mind wanders to what-ifs from the future, I replay conversations over and over in my head, I make mental grocery lists, and I dwell on past events that I’ll never be able to change. Why is it so hard to be present? How can we begin to remedy this lack of mindfulness?
The first step is to stop. It’s to stop the planning, stop the bustling, stop the fretting. And, although it’s not feasible to sit in meditation for the rest of our lives, physically stopping our bodies and sitting is a glorious experience. That’s it! Just. Sit. There. You can close your eyes if you want, or you could do some stretches. My favorite way to simply be still is to follow my breath. I am a big fan of Thich Nhat Hanh (as you may have guessed), and he has some wonderful teachings regarding this practice of uniting with the breath and using it as the bridge between your mind and the present moment. In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, he writes:
“In those moments when you are upset or dispersed and find it difficult to practice mindfulness, return to your breath: taking hold of your breath is itself mindfulness. Your breath is the wondrous method of taking hold of your consciousness.”
How beautiful! It would take many, many posts to even start to touch on the mindfulness teachings of this great teacher, but this one practice of being still is the foundation of it all. It’s really all you need to know. So this weekend, when you’re looking for ways to show yourself a little extra love, consider finding a quiet corner or spot at the park to simply sit and be with yourself for as few as 10 minutes.
Notice how it feels to be alive in this moment.
Stay with yourself.
I’m wishing you a wonderful weekend! Shabbat shalom!