Fear of anything new, any break in routine or habit, can be daunting. For me, putting on a swimsuit and going to a pool feels as daunting as any major life change might.
During the past year I’ve often felt stuck and overwhelmed. Life overall has frequently seemed so difficult and sad that it has been impossible for me to write an inspirational message – especially when personally I haven’t felt inspired. I spend a lot of my time encouraging – or is it preaching? – others to take a break, stop, listen for that inner voice to emerge. Yet, like many teachers, I don’t do so well practicing what I preach.
Recently I was lovingly gifted by my husband with seven days all to myself at a local ski resort, compliments of our time share. As it was “stick season”, the resort was empty and snow-less – a perfect time for solitude and reflection. I decided to use my time there as an opportunity to develop the practice of sitting, stopping, and listening.
I will admit it was very hard to force myself to stop. My inclination – my habit – was to keep busy; I just exchanged the work, family, and housekeeping activities for “me time” activities like hiking and reading. On occasion I did, however, push myself out of my comfort zone and practiced stopping and listening. Unfortunately, for the most part the inner voice that kept emerging was saying, “eat pretzels . . . where’s the hummus . . . did you remember to bring the chocolate?” Oh well.
So clearly, stopping and listening, like any habit, takes time to develop. And if my short periods of stopping didn’t summon an inspired inner voice of wisdom to drive major life change, they did, nonetheless, go a remarkably long way in refreshing my mind and restoring my soul – enough at least to help me foster the courage to put on that swimsuit and go to the resort’s indoor pool.
This message was actually written poolside, looking out at the grey autumnal sky, with 10 laps and a sit in the hot tub behind me. I didn’t quite yet have the energy or inspiration to move mountains but as a result of pushing myself out of my routine, I felt more renewed, satisfied, hopeful and yes, maybe even fulfilled, than I have in a long time. In addition, I finally returned to writing! And it was all triggered by a brief period of stopping.
Here’s the message I’d like to leave you with. In this time in our history when there are so many challenges facing people and the world – and inspiration is hard to come by – sometimes the best we can do, and maybe all that we need to do, is move just one or two steps forward and see what happens. Any forward movement has the potential to foster little life shifts. To paraphrase the ancient Chinese proverb – a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step – or in my case, a single stroke.
And a little stopping helps too!