Can you believe it’s the last week of October? This is my favorite month and I’ll be sad to say goodbye to it. And as we get closer to the end of 2021, I’m beginning to think of next year’s word and what I’m looking to learn from it. But before then, I’m happy to spend a couple more months with Stillness. A big thank you to Carolyn for hosting this One Little Word gathering!
I’ve wanted to go on a silent Buddhist retreat for about 15 years. But more and more, it’s become clear that a silent retreat won’t necessarily teach me very much that would transfer to my own home. Learning to find stillness in silence doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, does it?
This year has been about finding an internal stillness amidst the chaos. It’s been about cutting out the competition and comparisons, embracing a slower and more intentional pace, and focusing on the things that matter – not always the things that bring me joy, but what will actually make a difference in the long run.
Day by day, I move a little more in the right direction. Some days my movement can be measured in centimeters, others can be measured by miles.
Last month I wrote about how a combination of A Tale for the Time Being, Klara and the Sun, and the Miracle of Mindfulness had sparked a newfound appreciation for stillness. In A Tale for the Time Being, young Nao spent the summer with her grandmother, a Buddhist nun, at her monastery. While there, she fell in love with the routine and lifestyle. At one point she wished for “a lifetime of zazen [seated meditation], cleaning, and pickle making.”
Similarly, in one of my mindfulness books (I can’t remember nor find the specific one for the life of me!) mentions a meditation master who only practiced meditation while washing the dishes. She had a house full of children and chores and very little free time, yet when she washed the dishes, she simply washed the dishes. She practiced the art of mindfulness with her whole being while washing the dishes and became a meditation master in the process.
How inspiring is that?!
I don’t talk a lot about the challenges we face in our home. One of my children is profoundly autistic and it’s just not possible to describe how deeply it permeates within our walls. It’s not possible to describe the extreme high and lows we experience on, sometimes, an hourly basis. I can’t tell you how often I have to focus on just getting to the next second, to keep breathing through some of the most awful and painful moments. Things have been especially difficult over the last month or so, which is why I’ve been so silent in this space.
But, my friends, those moments teach me more than any silent retreat ever could. Every single second we have an opportunity to learn from our own lives. We just have to welcome the pain and discomfort and recognize it for what it is: our teacher.