Being still. It’s something with which I have a relatively difficult time. a friend once described me as having the energy and social stamina of a hummingbird. Having a deep connection to those little whirring delights, I took that as an extreme compliment. More recently someone noted that I seem to have an innate ability to move perpetually forward, pushing through things. Again, a compliment as far as I was concerned. After all, it is said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Life is not always about motion, though. There is something crucial about being able to just … be. To sit, still, and when that inclination hits to get up and open the refridgerator, check your email, glance at your phone to see if you have any text messages or missed calls that you instead pause, breathe and let the feeling pass. There is something precious about taking time to step out of the whooshing flow of modern day life and slip back to circadian rhythms. There is something, dare I say, magical in the serendipity that can occur when you cease planning, plotting, moving every minute and instead allow yourself to take a moment and see what is happening around you.
I’ll be honest, I rather suck at that. At least I used to. Over the course of the last five years, I’ve adopted an annual practice that’s evolved and expanded. I call it my “digital cleanse”.
Having grown from its initial three-day format to being a week-long, this experience now also takes place more than once a year. In between the bookends (a week in July and 1-2 weeks in December/January) I also practice more rigorous unpluggedness in my daily life – keeping any and all Internet connected devices out of the bedroom, actually using the power button to turn things off at night and carving out chunks of weekends during which I am decidedly off digital duty.
This year I took my July excursion even deeper. I wrote last week about having re-engaged with Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s work, The Invitation. When gathering up the literary snacks I’d take with me on this Sonoma journey, I grabbed this book, deciding that I would dig in not only to the text but also the meditations that accompany each chapter.
Little did I know that it was precisely two of these that I presently need the most.
“I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
My life now sits at one of those remarkable and terrifying crossroads at which we all arrive. (In fact if one is pushing the edge hard enough you probably reach such a place pretty often.) It’s one of those times when I am examining my path, reviewing the road behind for lessons and looking forward towards an array of choices. It is a time for reflection but really only insofar as the lessons may inform and instruct the movement ahead.
Herein lies the challenge.
When looking back it is nearly impossible not to in some way, at least not for me, play the coulda-woulda-shoulda game – that brain baking sensation that comes from wondering what might have happened if … if … if…
This time, though, perhaps because the situation is different but more likely because I am different – changed by time, experience, people in my life and all that good stuff – I feel strangely and solidly placed. Reading the chapter attached to the above stanza, I see that in a previous reading I had underlined the entire last paragraph which reads in part:
“… the failure I find the hardest to live with is the one that I made because I lacked the courage to let love take me where it will … It requires that I surrender to that which is larger than myself, that I be willing to move ahead where I am afraid of making mistakes.”
The point being made isn’t about not making mistakes – because we all do. Oriah Mountain Dreamer says that one should make real mistakes, and goes on to define those as “genuine errors in judgement, choices that can be seen, with the knowledge of hindsight, not to have been the best.”
In other words, when you have a moment when your gut tells you that something is a bad idea, and you do it anyway and then it turns out that your gut was right … that is a failure. Trust yourself. A good lesson and one that I (thankfully) seem to be getting. I think.
Reading further I came to another stanza that resonated powerfully:
“It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
and not shrink back.”
There are so many layers to this particular stanza for me, and the story Oriah Mountain Dreamer relates in this chapter of a personal experience with a friend who was struck by an aneurysm and the tectonic shift that created certainly for her friend and also for her.
Standing in the fire … What does that mean to you? To me it means holding steady and standing strong in the face of great adversity and at the same time allowing the experience to bring lessons and change me and – this is the big part – realizing that through so many of my life experiences I’ve felt as though I stood in the center of that fire alone.
Being relatively solitary this week has been different in many ways from the past. For starters, I opted not to be totally alone. I had several friends who came up throughout the week to spend time, sharing the haven and rest. In the time between I didn’t pack every second with doing something. Normally I’d get up, run with the dog, go for a hike, do some sightseeing, eat, eat, eat and eat some more.
Not this time.
I left the schedule decidedly empty and even when there were things planned, I allowed the day to evolve as it would, which sometimes meant that previously planned things didn’t happen. I allowed myself to lay in bed one morning, merely getting up to get some coffee then curling back up under the comforter with a book and allowing myself to doze off.
The result – a return to civilization that has me calm, focused and very very clear about one thing … it’s time for some changes.
Note: In case you were wondering that this post is dated July 4th, which fell squarely during my digital cleanse week, allow me to clarify. This post was drafted by hand during digital cleanse week and post dated for July 4th.
For a photo gallery of my week, feel free to check out this Flickr photo set.
Photo credit: Image for this post courtesy of Shutterstock