“The notes I handle no better than many pianists.
But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.”
Artur Schnabel, pianist and composer
I recently had “one of those weeks.” We had a cold snap, and the heater broke down, and the part to repair it was not in stock. My elderly in-laws came from out of town for a visit. My grandsons spent a couple of days of Fall Break with me (love it, but it’s an energy drain). Then my agent and I parted ways (amicably, but still . . .), the warning light in my car said to check the tire pressure (a learning curve for me), and to top it off, when I poured seed my outdoor bird feeder, out fell a dead, desiccated mouse. Comedians make a living exploiting the humor in weeks like that.
Fortunately nothing heart shattering or earthshaking happened that week, simply the accumulation of stuff-to-deal-with that wears us down bit by bit. But whether a single big shake-up rocks us to the core, or a series of small temblors keeps us agitated, or life seems eerily still (which can also be agitating), inner peace is the anchor that helps us stay steady.
One way to find and nurture inner peace is to slow down. Basic? Yes. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not so much. I can hear my younger self in a busier season snapping, “I don’t have time to slow down!” So life circles tighter and tighter, winding into a tense coil that eventually has no more stretch in it, so tight it’s immoveable. Almost. If that’s where you are, I hope I can help your soul stretch a bit. If you’re experienced in slowing and calming your spirit, I hope I can offer a fresh viewpoint and a few new practices that you’ll find useful.
I’ll give you a very specific slowing-down practice in a minute. And in the coming weeks, I’ll suggest a variety of ways to stretch your soul and tap into the peace that’s yours for the taking. But if any of these practices become simply another thing to remember to do – and to beat yourself up over if you don’t remember to do it – then that practice is only adding to your stress. There are many ways to find and settle into peace. If one way doesn’t work for you, try another. Or come back to it later. Train yourself in whatever practice works for you. But do try each one. Start slow and small. Eventually the practices that help settle your soul will become habits you look forward to.
It’s a little like housecleaning. A hurried quick-vacuum of the carpets misses some of the crumbs. Slowing down gets them all. Still, sometimes you have to rush through. And sometimes you set aside a day for the deep cleaning. Usually I can find a balance between the two. So, yes, slow down. But maybe instead of trying to carve out several minutes to sit back and settle (which I’ll be asking you to do in the coming months), you can begin with a simple intentional pause.
Yes, that’s the specific practice this week (and it’s called practice for a reason): Pause. Intentionally. Stop – look – listen. It’s the old adage “stop and smell the roses.” Which brings us to the exact time that I suggest pausing: when you sit down to eat. Eating is basic. We all do it. And most of us are able to smell the aromas of our food. But we don’t often pause to really notice it. Or we notice it in passing. Try to pause for a few seconds. Inhale, appreciate the aroma, and then while you’re exhaling, relax your shoulders, brow, and hands. Inhale again, appreciate, and then . . . bon appetit!
So if you want more peace, make slowing down a hope. Aim for it. Take small steps toward the goal of picking up on the peace that flows at its own pace all around you, just waiting for you to pause, notice, and absorb it. In music, pauses create rhythm and interest and meaning. It’s not so different in life. And “– ah, that is where the art resides.”
Nourish peace, cultivate lovingkindness, and carry the calm.
Shadow of the Week (I see a bird fluttering to the right of a heart.):
Nature photo of the week:
Text and photos © 2014 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.