By Theresa Puskar
“Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast- you also miss the sense of where you are going and why" – Eddie Cantor
For those of you who have read my column during the past three months, you might remember that I have been getting messages to slow down. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I got the message yet again from Jacob, a spirit guide who has been supporting me for over a decade. I’ve come to realize through the years that if I hear a message three times, I really need to act on it. It has become crystal clear to me that if I don’t stop doing, doing is going to stop me! So, Walter and Kasia have graciously given me permission to take a couple of months for myself. Thus, my articles for the next three months will not be about events, but about my experiences as I work hard not to work hard (there’s an oxymoron for you!). While I believe I’ve been getting these messages for quite some time, I trust my intuition – my wise inner self, and she is harking, “Now is the time, dear soul. Now is the time!”
As I sit here and look at my “almost empty” calendar, I find myself filled with both angst and excitement. As my family and friends can attest to, it is rare for me to be “unbusy.” Usually I am running from one event to another. It has been a brand new experience to have so much “free” time. I don’t know about you, but for me, this addiction to action started when I was about 12 years old. I was living in Toronto, Canada, and I had two part-time jobs. The first job was as an office assistant, and the second as a singer-guitarist for the Saturday night folk mass. I was also taking piano, gymnastics, and ballet lessons. Goddess knows that the gymnastics and ballet lessons were a total waste of time. Grace and ease of movement were never my strong points. Frankly, I couldn’t even touch my toes, and I moved like a cow on stilts. In fact, I still do! Needless to say, I was a busy young lady.
“A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time—the stuff of life.” – Carl Sandburg
The first full day that I spent quiet and alone was January 1st. I started the morning off very enthused and ambitious, however, as the day progressed, I found myself getting more and more edgy. What I’ve been noting is that when I have time to get quiet and think, I really struggle with the “thinking” part of it all. To leave my mind to its own devices without any distractions at all can be overwhelming. My mind wants no part of the silence. Perhaps this is because it fears itself, and in response, I spend a great deal of energy avoiding the quiet. I follow the lead on one distraction after another, and avoid getting still and silent at all cost. When I finally do still myself, I usually only allow five to ten minutes. In that short time, however, I feel wonderful; a sense of relief fills my body and mind. It’s as if I’ve spent a great deal of time there. Who knows, perhaps I was a monk, or someone who took an oath of silence in past lives. While I’ll never know for sure, when I get quiet, I feel like I’m in a very warm, wonderful, and familiar place. So, I ask myself, “Why do I continue to avoid getting quiet and still?”
“The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God in Whom their presence is not tiresome, and because of Whom his own love for them can never know satiety.” – Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
When I read this quote from Thomas Merton, I wonder if my avoidance stems from a deep fear of truly feeling just how lonely I am. I ponder, “Is this just me or is it the human condition? At our core, are most of us lonely?” While I have a terrific family and friends, perhaps the loneliness that I seek to satiate is an aching to connect with my divine. While I give lip service to my beliefs, I ask myself how much faith I really have? If I won’t even take five minutes each day to connect with my source, am I truly committed to growing in my spirituality? Although I can fill my days reading all of the scriptures and inspirational books out there, none of them will give me the experience of divine connection. I know that the only thing that will is feeling the silence. The question remains, “Do I have the courage to be still a while?”
“Listen! Clam up your mouth and be silent like an oyster shell, for that tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul, my friend. When the lips are silent, the heart has a hundred tongues." – Rumi
As previously mentioned, I most recently received the message again to slow down a couple of weeks ago. Jacob informed me that as I got quiet, I would connect in a much deeper way to my own voice. I will then be able to communicate more from my soul’s unique experience, and not lean so heavily on the words and wisdom of others. While I’ve caught glimpses of my radiant soul, I know that I haven’t quieted myself enough to really get to know who this splendid inner-self is. I’m delighted to get to know her in a more intimate way. For some reason (and I don’t fully understand why), this is going to take more courage than moving to a foreign country, solo backpacking throughout Europe, or starting divorce proceedings. It will take more than just about anything else I have ever done in my life.
“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time; time to dream, time to contemplate what's working and what's not, so that we can make changes for the better.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Here is my commitment for the month of February. Like all commitments, I think it is wisest to start small. So, I commit to silencing myself for at least five minutes each day. I often feel comfortable closing my eyes and visualizing, intending, or praying, yet I realized that they too are distractions. Thus, for the sake of this exercise, I will avoid focusing on anything, except for my breathing. Next month, I will commit to a longer duration. I will also keep a journal nearby when I meditate, and write about any insights or shifts I note in response to doing so.
I look forward to sharing my journey with you in the following months. If you struggle with taking time to be in silence as I do, I would encourage you to join me. We will open our hearts and minds to the adventures that lie within. Please feel free to email me at the magazine, if you would like to share your experience with me. I’d love to hear from you!
Theresa Puskar, our All About Town contributor, is a writer, trainer, speaker, and inspirational audio-book producer. She recently authored The Terri Series – seven books that focus on social issues such as bullying, honoring diversity, celebrating creativity, non-judgment of emotions, finding alternatives to technology-based entertainment, discovering a non-judgmental God, and overcoming fears. She has also recorded a powerful experiential audio program, How to De-clutter Your Mind and live a Heart-Centered Life.