Recently – and for the first time in years – I peeked into a kaleidoscope and spent the next few minutes turning the barrel, watching chinks of color and light split and fall from one design into another. I reminded myself that Bertrand Russell said:
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
In this frantic world, we need to nurture our own inner calm. Not only do we personally need it, but the world, too, needs our calm. So here’s a calm kaleidescope of words. May each shine a fragment of color and light into your spirit.
- Centered – In pottery class, we learned to always center the lump clay on the turning wheel before forming it into a vase or bowl or cup. Otherwise the piece is so unbalanced, it soon becomes unworkable. Balance is a good word for being centered. Centered indicates something stable that our life rotates around. The center is the fulcrum point on which our life is balanced.
- Settled – I like this word. It makes me feel . . . well, settled. It comes from the Old English setlan, which means “to place.” In the kaleidoscope of calm, settle means “to be satisfied with.” I picture swirling flakes in a shaken snow globe as they come to rest. Or falling leaves, easing into a drift on the ground. Or feathers shaken from a pillow, floating lightly through the air to a gentle landing. Let the soul, thoughts, emotions settle.
- Refuge – Refugere in Latin means “to flee” and is, of course, related to refugee. A refuge is a safe space to flee to, a shelter from trouble or danger. It’s a sanctuary, which comes from sanctus, meaning “sacred.” Sacred spaces were often places people could go to be safe, because the space represented a place of mercy, a place indwelt by the divine. Most people would not commit violence or retribution within the sacred space.
- Grounded – This comes from Middle English grundien or grownden, meaning “to set on a foundation.” Established. Fixed firmly. Again: settled. Calmness grounds us.
- Relaxed – We used to call it being “laid back.” Unhurried, carefree, stress free, easygoing. That may be more a personality style for some than for others, but it’s for our best – our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual best – to learn to relax, to make it a habit.
- Serene – This is another of my favorites. It comes from the Latin serenus, meaning “clear, cloudless, untroubled.” In ancient times, it was used to describe sky and weather that was undisturbed, so it’s a perfect description for the untroubled, composed spirit.
- Still – The dictionary definition is “free from turbulence or commotion” and is related to stall from the Greek stellan, to put or place. In that sense, it’s akin to settle. When we’re training ourselves to relax, it helps to still our bodies and then try to coax our minds to be still, to stop pinging toward past and present concerns.
- Contemplative – In Latin, contemplari means “to survey, observe.” It’s related to temple, a space marked off to watch for divine guidance or signs and omens, which is why we call some religious thinkers contemplatives. When we contemplate, we “consider thoroughly, view with continued attention.”
- Tranquil – Similar to serene, the Latin tranquillus means “quiet, calm, still.” I always think of a mirror lake reflecting trees, blue sky, and clouds. A tranquil soul is unruffled, free from agitated emotions. It mirrors spiritual trust and peace.
- Quiet – A quiet spirit is “at rest; free from disturbance.” I think of a library, which may be quiet, but it’s also full of energy. In fact, the settled quiet of a library holds dynamic potential. What’s going on in that quiet space is nourishing hearts and minds for returning to the noisier outside world.
- Placid – I think of Lake Placid. Like tranquil, placid means pleasantly calm, peaceful, and unruffled. Interesting that the Latin word it comes from, placidus (calm quiet) is akin to placere, which has evolved into pleasure and please. It’s a pleasure to find peace and calm.
- Peaceful – This word is so common, we could almost skip over it. But its origins are interesting. The Latin pax is akin to pact, a truce or accord. So while all the other words (except perhaps refuge and solace) tend to focus on our inner, personal world, peace seems to involve coming to terms with the outer world as well, as we try not only to carry our own calm but also to interact with the world in ways that promote peace, or in dictionary terms: “freedom from strife, dissension, annoyance, anxiety.”
- Lull – Ah, this one sounds like what it is. It’s based on a simple phrase used in cradle songs: lulla lullay, sometimes with by added, as in bye-bye, meant to soothe, quiet, and calm a child into falling asleep. A lullabye.
- Solace – We usually think of solace as the comfort we offer to someone who is upset or grieving. It comes from the Latin solari, “to console.” By carrying calm within ourselves, we automatically become a source of solace to the world.
- Calm – The origin of calm is interesting and a bit different from the others. Calm can be traced back to the Latin cauma, which means “summer heat,” with the “l” perhaps coming from calere, “to be hot.” Before air conditioning, the heat of a summer afternoon led people to take a time out, a siesta, to calm body and mind. Calm then became “a state of tranquility.”
Contemplating any one of these words helps me still myself and calm my spirit. I hope this kaleidoscope of calmness brings you solace and helps you experience serenity.
Nourish peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.
Nature of the week:
Shadow of the Week:
Text and photos © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.