It’s time to check in on my Word of the Year – Stillness. Carolyn hosts a wonderful One Little Word linkup on the last Monday of each month – please visit her and the other bloggers participating. Today’s post was inspired by my current early morning contemplative reading, New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. On page 14 he writes:

“Each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality”

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of contemplation

I love the idea of every challenge teaching us something – that we’re able to take those difficult moments and turn them into nuggets of wisdom to tuck away for the next challenge. Pema Chödrön teaches these skills and is one of my favorite people in the world. I started reading her books nearly a decade ago after being introduced to her by a dear friend. There are two quotes of hers that I turn over and over in my mind, especially when moments seem to be unbearable.

The first is:

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Pema Chödrön, When things fall apart: heart advice for difficult times

I always think about this quote because there are two “big picture” lessons in parenthood that keep coming up for me, especially as autism has made itself more pertinent in our home.

+ Lesson 1: Nothing lasts forever. No meltdown, no moment of happiness. No clean floor, no dirt and toy-strewn floor. No irritating phase, no pleasing phase. What is irritating now, will be recalled fondly later. What is pleasant now, will be irritating later. Those moments of desperation? They will pass. Those moments of pure bliss? You guessed it – they’re going to pass. I can make it through any difficult moment – with my dignity intact – because it won’t last forever.

+ Lesson 2: I have absolutely no control over anything, other than learning to redirect my own thoughts. I’m not even sure that I can control my own thoughts, but I certainly have the ability, with practice, to recognize my automatic thoughts, greet them without judgement, and gently redirect them to a helpful place. And this was something I was thinking about when I chose Stillness as my word. How does one cultivate a still and quiet heart when the world is so loud and always moving? When I get angry about picking up the same toys over and over? When a child has an autism meltdown and puts yet another hole in the wall?

I’ll always experience these moments of discomfort until I can internalize these two lessons. And of course – that doesn’t mean that my life will suddenly be smooth sailing, it only means that I’ll have the skills to redirect my thoughts to a helpful place rather than one of self-defeat, and I’m certain that’s what Ani Pema intends with this quote. I’m not being punished and pummeled by the universe until I learn this lesson, but it will continue to hold me back until I find some way to navigate through it. And Stillness can get me through it.

The second Pema Chödrön quote that I think about is:

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

Pema Chödrön, when things fall apart

In my January OLW update, Carolyn commented on my meditation mantra (“I am still”) with some interesting ideas. To her, it called to mind, “I am still here… I am still me… I am still participating in this life.” Yes – despite the clouds that sometimes envelop me, I am still here. I still have the ability to find stillness no matter the storm raging all around and through me. And once those clouds pass, there I’ll be. Waiting for the next. Because the storms never go away; they simply find new ways to make themselves at home.


My Stillness goal in April continues to be the same — meditate for 5 minutes each day. I’m utilizing my 5 Year Journal to help me with this journey and writing at least one way Stillness showed up in my life each day. I’m hoping this will keep Stillness at the top of my thoughts throughout the day, which will make it easier to turn to in difficult moments.

Please tell me – do you have a mantra or a prayer that helps you get through your own difficult times?

21 thoughts

  1. Loved this, Katie, and thank you so much for sharing those two quotes and your thoughts and experiences with each. I love and totally believe that first one. And I actually find it reassuring — like there’s a wise and loving part of me that will keep presenting the necessary lessons until I learn them. And I also love what feels like a connected idea — that everything I have ever experienced is inside of me. Anything that needs attention or healing is in there and will offer itself when I am ready. As for Mantras, I will often just say, “I’m okay” as many times as I need to. (Also, as needed, I will say, “I’m not going to listen to you right now, Mom!”) 😉

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    1. I love that thought as well – that everything you need is inside of you already. It’s tapping into it that’s the hardest part! One thing we used to say in undergrad a lot was, “I’m okay. You’re okay. And if we’re NOT okay, then that’s okay.” It at least made us laugh!! And yes — it’s always a good idea to get those negative voices out of our heads 🙂

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  2. Wow, Katie, you’re doing such an amazing job of centering Stillness in your life and approaching all that “weather” with such calmness and focus. I really love the idea of nothing going away until we’re finished with it — it’s such a different perspective. I need to remember that, that if there’s something that keeps popping up in my life, it means that I still have things I can learn from it.

    I don’t really have a mantra at the moment, but years ago when I was having some health issues, I kept repeating “fake it ’til you make it” to myself. It worked in that context and in others, like when I’ve wanted to feel more confident than I’m actually feeling. The goal is to “trick” others, but often you end up tricking yourself as well.

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  3. As I edge closer to 60 and having raised 4 daughters on my own…while going to school…entering the workforce…learning who I am/growing along with my girls and also starting and running my quilting business…Life has taught me that this too shall pass.
    Also there are seasons in life, for years I wasn’t able to drink a whole cup of coffee while it was hot…now I spend an hour or so every morning enjoying every drop while I quietly begin my days. That’s my stillness 😊

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    1. Wow — what a hard-learned lesson! And it’s so true – nothing lasts forever! And your stillness sounds like Heaven – enjoy it this morning 🙂

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  4. Bravo!! I think your word “sounds” easy, but might be the hardest word ever to do. You are doing it so well! I need to get a Chodron book, thank you for this reminder! Your reminder on control is so true… (says the control freak) most daily struggles revolve around control, or the lack thereof and the battle to achieve it. (I meditate, and my mantra changes frequently, depending on what I think I need…lately it has been “am i listening”)

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    1. You are totally right about our struggles revolving around control. I am amazed by how quickly things resolve themselves around the house when I just back off and let my family manage things on their own.

      I LOVE “am I listening” as mantra! I might borrow that for a bit, thank you!!

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  5. What a wise and moving post…a moment of Stillness in reading it. I use Tonglen countless times a day, every day When we were in the thick of isolation, it was all parenting-related. “In with tension, out with peace,” for example. And in the spirit of Tonglen, I knew that was a meditation for all struggling, stressed households everywhere. Since my brother’s diagnosis, it’s often “I breathe in cancer, I breathe out health,” (took some getting used to. Seriously uncomfortable.) When my husband and I miscommunicate…and we do…I “breathe in frustration, breathe out love.” Tonglen is my own oxygen mask! It keeps me from barking or snapping. It has helped me loosen my white-knuckle grip on control thereby making my home a more supportive place for the people I love–and for myself. Of course I still veer off course, but not nearly as much as I used to.
    And I love how you’re using your 5-year diary as a place for Stillness. What a brilliant way to be with your word!

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    1. Tonglen is something I should practice more. I know that Pema writes about it a lot and I think I need to dig into her books again!! Thank you for reminding me about it 🙂

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  6. I have never read Pema Chodron, but when I look at my TBR list, I see “anything by Pema Chodron”. Thank you for providing the nudge I need to take action.
    I think stillness is one of the hardest things to do. We are so programmed to value busyness. Your commitment to find stillness is inspiring.
    I do have a mantra I have been using lately. It is: “hands dirty; mind clean”. I use it to combat anxiety. It’s an especially fitting mantra for spring!

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    1. Yes – anything by Pema Chödrön is an excellent idea! 🙂 And this IS the perfect time of the year to embrace your mantra – thank you!

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  7. You are really leaning into your word with aplomb. I can feel the word’s effects on you via your description and words about your journey. Congrats and carry on!
    Cheers~

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  8. Being still and trusting are two things I don’t do very well, and there’s a lot of it happening here in my neck of the woods lately. Hubby’s phone interview went so well yesterday that he has an in person interview next week. Meanwhile, out of the 10 rental places I checked out this morning, 6 are somewhat promising, with only 1 of those with a waiting list. Sooo, things are looking good… now it’s time to sit back and be a little “still” and “trust” that everything will work to His will for us.

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    1. Oh, good luck Bear! I know you’ve been wanting this move for a long time and I’m hoping it works out for you. But it’s all anxiety-inducing, so I hope you’re able to take some deep breaths and find stillness!

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  9. What a lovely post, Katie. When Things Fall Apart was a difficult read for me last year (with my small group, just as quarantine started and we moved from in-person to Zoom) and yet I learned a lot. Tonglen was the big thing I took away; it was really hard at first (especially the breathing in) and now it’s more or less second nature. My own breath prayer is Be Still and Know.

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    1. Wow – what perfect timing to read that book just as quarantine settled around us all. When you say difficult, do you mean it was emotionally difficult or that it was difficult to read/understand/stay focused on? I ask because I’m really interested in Buddhist philosophies and would like to read more, but have a hard time finding work that is engaging enough to hold my attention. That’s where I struggle with Pema — I struggle to engage with it because it tends to be a bit dry.

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