For many years, I thought of the late fall and early winter months as a time when everything outside looked dead and dull. Admittedly, it was a bit depressing looking at the world through that lens. I saw naked trees with bare limbs, grass turning from green to brown, a sky that looked more gray than blue on most days, and flocks of birds abandoning the forest in search of warmer air. The Earth seemed quiet, drab, and lonely.
Aside from playing in the snow on occasion, I didn’t usually venture outside much from November through April. I definitely didn’t take the time to engage with nature, except to periodically look around and note how barren and boring everything seemed. Christmas lights brightened the scenery for a spell, but they were only a short-lived respite from an otherwise gloomy landscape.
When I made the decision to live for REAL, my perspective shifted.
Cold, crisp autumn and winter days have more recently become my favorite times to take walks/runs and reflect. Being out-of-doors and breathing in fresh air gets me grounded and helps to clear my head of the scary stuff that can creep in and fill it up. It allows me to disconnect from the noise of society (and of my very loud mind!), and to reconnect to the Earth and the elements.
Because I go outside often, I am now in much closer touch with the cycles that nature travels through each season. I have come to REALize that the winter trees and grass are not damaged or dead, but that they have simply changed form. Now when I take my strolls and jogs during these colder months, I observe that things have merely quieted down and entered into a state of calm and replenishment. All is still alive and well. I understand that nature has begun to shed all unnecessary elements from the past year and is deliberately slowing down to be, rest, and restore.
Nature Provides REAL Cues for REAL Living
When you decide to live for REAL, you start to recognize that you are just as much an element of the natural world as a tree, a bird, or a blade of grass. You remember that you are fueled by the same powerful energy that gives life to all that is, and you awaken to the truth that your survival and progress are supported by the same universal principles by which nature operates. In turn, you learn to take your cues from Mother Nature.
Even if you don’t have full awareness of the deep connection you have with nature and its cycles, you will still sense and experience it at some level. Your intuition tells you that the end of the year is a time when you, too, should be settling in for restoration and reflection. However, the ego tries to convince you that the demands of the holiday season will never allow for any type of restful break.
Nature is pulling you to slow down, take pause, and calmly breathe your way into the year ahead. Society is pushing you to speed up, get going, and run full force into the next activity, the next celebration, and the next year. This internal tug of war creates a conflict. It results in the lingering presence of a free-floating anxiety that you are never REALly able to accurately identify or explain. Hence, December stress sets in.
Scrap Busy, Go with Being
If the notion of slowing down, pressing pause, and building quiet time into your daily life sounds inviting but improbable (especially in December), I would not be surprised. Society, on the whole, is not at all in support of rest time, quiet time, or any other kind of time that does not involve producing, doing, or accomplishing something. The world teaches us that busyness, fast-paced living, and overbooked schedules are signs of importance, achievement, and contribution. It is often inferred that down time is “dead” time, and that slower-moving people with “idle” moments to spare are generally lazy, non-contributing, and lost.
Authors Susan Pearse and Martina Sheehan capture this faulty thinking beautifully in their brilliant book, Do Less Be More: “In the modern world, ‘busy’ is being worn as a badge of honor, a symbol of success, or a new way to display importance.” In short, the world today tells us that busyness equates to worthiness.
Um . . I don’t think so.
Pearse and Sheehan don’t think so either: “Having more, doing more, working more, worrying more, and trying more don’t automatically lead to achieving more, experiencing more, or enjoying more. In fact, the hustle and bustle of ceaseless activity and urgent expectation only serves to lift levels of stress, frustration, disappointment, and unhappiness. Busyness is a barrier to self-reflection, a hindrance to novel solutions, and a smokescreen to clarity.”
Creating a REAL life of wellness requires a deliberate effort to knock down the barriers of busyness and noise. It involves answering nature’s call to balance periods of activity with periods of rest. Rest sets the stage for REAL reflection. REAL reflection sets the stage for REAL growth and change.
It is time to take Mother Nature’s cue, friend.
Three Wise Gifts: Presents that offer Presence
I am not really feeling the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Can you please box up some stillness, silence, and solitude instead?
You won’t require jewels or perfume to lay the groundwork for restoration and reflection, and you definitely won’t need any “wise” kings swooping in to assist. You were born with all of the REAL wisdom needed to achieve REAL presence and rest, and you have always had the internal tools to build a solid platform for REAL reflection.
Stillness, silence, and solitude are three such tools that are consistently underrated and overlooked. Yet, a mere 15 minutes per/day of this magical mix can transform your world in very positive ways. Fifteen minutes equates to about 1% of your 24-hour day.
It is one of the mysterious paradoxes of life: the more still you are, the greater your potential to move and grow in a REAL way. Society tells you that being still is unproductive and a waste of time, but the REAL truth is that stillness creates REAL presence; and REAL presence is often the catalyst for REAL breakthroughs and inspirations.
My best writing ideas have come to me during moments of pause and stillness. When I am laying on the sand, or sitting quietly on a park bench, or simply meditating cross-legged on my apartment floor, the noise of the world turns down enough for my soul to speak and be heard. I give my higher self a space to breathe and express itself.
My husband, a business owner and entrepreneur, always seems to come up with his most brilliant strategies when he is sitting still on the back of our boat. It doesn’t make a difference whether he is out in the ocean or tied to the pier. When he slows down and sits still on that fiberglass, the creative floodgates open for him. It never fails.
Pearse and Sheehan agree that, “The greatest leaps forward, not just throughout history, but for every one of us in our regular lives, rely on our willingness to stop and hear the whisper-quiet voice of our own deep knowledge and wisdom. Unless you value liberal doses of doing nothing, you are not giving your full potential the chance to emerge.”
It doesn’t matter where or when you decide to do it, just sit still and be.
Not sure where to begin? Polish up your stillness skills, and start through guided meditation.
The value of silence is not just a philosophical phenomenon, it is a scientific one as well. Studies suggest that regular doses of silence not only boost peace and self-awareness, but they support healthy brain development.
Pearse and Sheehan assure us that, “A total transformation takes place in your brain when you slow down, look up, let go, and fall silent.” They challenge us by asking, “How would your life be different if you lived by the philosophy that an important way to find answers is not to fill your mind with other opinions and more information, but to remove yourself from it all and let the silence weave its magic?”
Finding silence in your moments and days doesn’t have to be overly-complicated. Make things easy on yourself by searching your everyday environment for places and circumstances that lend themselves to quiet moments.
- Leave the buds at home and walk, run, or exercise without sound.
- Turn off the radio in the car.
- Leave the TV and stereo off from time to time.
- Take the quieter country route to the next destination.
- Revel in the silent time you get in the shower or bath.
- Stay in bed for the first 5 waking minutes of the day and enjoy the natural silence.
- Find a quiet place to take your lunch break.
When you periodically limit the crowd to you, yourself, and you, you have a much better shot at hearing your own voice and getting to know yourself in a REAL way. Solitude also fosters productivity, focus, creativity, and clarity.
Carving out alone time is not about isolating yourself from others, but rather it is about setting aside time to form an intimate relationship with yourself. For many people, the prospect of being alone is scary, and one they avoid at all costs. It can be challenging and uncomfortable to sit with yourself and your thoughts, because there will likely be some not-so-fun stuff that bubbles to the surface.
In order to gain a REAL understanding of who you are and what a REAL life would look like for you, reflective alone time is an essential requirement. The not-so-fun thoughts and feelings are just as crucial to be with and process as the warm-and-fuzzy ones. We will do the work together. I promise that any temporary pain will lead to immense, long term gain.
Think outside of the box (or maybe crawl into one!) to find your alone time:
- Close your door every now and then (to the office, to the bedroom, to the bathroom).
- Unplug, and go off-grid and offline (at least once a day).
- Wake up 10 minutes earlier than your housemates, and have your morning coffee or tea with yourself.
- Stay up a bit later than your housemates and snuggle up with a good book or with your journal.
- Exercise independently or take a walk/run by yourself.
- Eat a meal without any company.
- Take yourself on a date (or if you want to get REAL crazy, take a solo weekend trip).
Begin to get up close and personal with yourself!!!!
A REAL Gift
The month of December acts as a bridge between the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another, and it is the ideal time to hit the brakes, refresh, and prepare for renewal. You are standing on the edge of a new beginning, and you are smack in the center of the season of giving.
Now is the perfect time to give something REAL to yourself. Allow yourself the chance to follow your true nature and align with the present moment. Slow the pace down, press pause, and create daily opportunities for restoration and rejuvenation.
During this traditionally jam-packed month, you will need regular doses of peaceful, alone time more than ever.
Be. Rest. Restore.
You draw energy from stillness. Quiet offers strength. Rest is power.
And that, my friends, is the REAL holiday tea.