The Best Present for Christmas
“All of humanity’s problems stem from a man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
This quote from Blaise Pascal dating from the XVII century sounds very pertinent today. “To sit quietly in a room” seems so challenging! To sit… quietly… we have been told to move, to do, to talk, to work. In our high-paced world we struggle with silence. We feel uncomfortable just being. We need to fill the silence with “something”. We forget that “music is the silence between the notes”, as Debussy described so eloquently. It's December 2020 and we are living between notes, between the past and the emerging future. We are in transition. We are living “the silence” in between. The question is: “Are we able to sit in silence?” “Are we able to make music?”
Our world is at the grip of a pandemic, each country pulsing at a different rhythm. We hear about second waves, third waves, the hope of a vaccine, the fear of its side effects, the ban on flights. Stepping into the unknown may frighten us, freeze us, or make us move even more frantically.
We know that we need to pause long enough to ask the bigger questions. Have we paused long enough yet? Have we asked ourselves the bigger questions?
What is essential in my life? If I get rid of everything superfluous, my possessions, my desires, my social role… If I strip myself of all what is outside me, what is left? Who am I really?
Can I stay with the question long enough, with gentle curiosity? Without a goal, without intent? Without willing to reach an outcome, without wanting to control the process?
This year has brought many questions into my life for which I have found no answers yet. As for many of us, uncertainty is my new way of being on this planet. I am relentlessly accompanied by questions, questions that “are walking me”.
I notice that if I look for a solution, I find myself spending hours compulsively thinking about the problem, tightening my mind around circular thoughts, becoming obsessed in my search for an answer. I feel the tension in my body, in my chest, in my belly. A type of sclerosis. I can’t breath freely, I don’t feel other parts of myself.
By sitting, I become aware of this. I become aware that I don’t feel my body. If I stay with this, I allow my body to show me the way. If I take time to breathe, parts of my body that felt stressed start to soften and I create some space around the tension. I can slowly disengage myself from the mind, I become less obsessed by the question, I lose my focus and I open myself to the mystery of life. I stop pushing to find an answer. The question “walks me”. According to spiritual traditions, the question develops and becomes the answer. I just need to give it time and space. To trust life, so an intuition, an inspiration can arrive. Then real transformation can occur.
We are approaching Christmas. For some, a sacred season. A time for reunions, family and friends. Also a time for quietness, contemplation and space. A time for being present. The best “present” we can give to ourselves and to our loved ones.