It wasn’t new advice. I’d heard different versions of it over the years.
Restraint of tongue and pen, my mother used to say. Wait 24 hours and don’t do any thing rash, was another one of her maxims.
Just slow down and breathe, friends would tell me when I got stressed out. It’s some of the most valuable, and most difficult to follow, advice I’ve received. And, I generally ignored them all.
But somehow, that time, when I heard it, it stuck.
How often had I slowed down enough to be still and really pay attention to what was happening, both inside myself and in any given situation?
Learning to be still has been one of my life lessons, one I’ll probably be working on until I die, but over time, it’s gotten easier.
A few years back, I began to practice taking silent moments of reflection, and it’s helped me approach life in a softer way. I still feel the same emotions when things don’t go my way — and they often don’t, but I’m learning to indulge in those emotions less.
No matter how set we believe our path is, life can derail us.
We lose our health, our jobs or our homes.
Spouses leave us. Loved ones die. Friends turn against us when we need them most.
I don’t have to make myself crazy over events and people I have no control over.
I can choose to not engage. Often the best solution is to just move on.
Besides, most of the affronts I took personally really had very little to do with me.
It was liberating to realize how inconsequential I am in the big scheme of things.
I don’t think it matters how we find our stillness. Meditation worked for me.
For others, it might be a quiet walk in the forest or time in their church or synagogue.
Just sitting with something before deciding how to respond to it has subtly changed my life.
It’s given me a chance to see things with a new perspective and sometimes find solutions that I might not have thought of otherwise.
Learning to be still has helped me treat others with a little more charity as well.
When I’m frustrated or angry, I try to restrain myself and think about how the things I do or say will affect the people around me.
What’s going on with the person who has just shouted at me or cut me off on the highway?
Maybe their life is falling apart, and if I decide to vent my anger at them, how much damage will it cause? Will my actions bring a smile or a tear to someone’s face?
A few weeks ago someone sent me an email with a story.
We all have two wolves fighting inside us, the story said.
One is hatred, envy and despair. The other is compassion, forgiveness and love.
Which one wins? The one we feed.
It’s our choice.
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