Don’t get me wrong. I’m eternally grateful for all the blessings that I have: work that I love, a new home to fix up, a loving relationship, to say nothing of living in these amazing times. I hope that I never forget how lucky I am, and how fortunate we all are that we don’t have to labor like our ancestors did, to build the roads and railways to create the infrastructure that we take for granted today. In fact, gratitude is part of my spiritual practice.
But these days, what I find I am most grateful for is those rare moments of nothing. The sweet emptiness of a good meditation, a day off where I can just putter, a moment of stillness in a yoga pose, a blank to-do list (well, frankly that has never happened, but I would be grateful if it did!), a landscape without buildings, a clear sky, or a moment of shared silence with a friend.
We put far too much emphasis on things. We think we need more things, better things, different things. We even see relationships as things, something that we have rather than a living process we are in.
Biologically, men have a thing, and women have a place. Men have created a world filled with the most marvelous things: televisions and computers, houses and automobiles, airplanes, and the internet. Thank you, guys, for all your hard work. (I realize that women contribute to this, too, but it is largely the masculine paradigm that has focused on production.)
But in the process of creating things, the place has gotten trashed. The environment is choked with pollution, and resources are disappearing faster than we can replace them. Temperatures are rising, bringing havoc to every natural and social system we have. The ocean is becoming acid, and the topsoil is disappearing.
We seem to measure our worth in this culture by what we do, many of us feeling guilty when we’re not busy doing something productive. But we may be making an even more important contribution by just being. Driving less, eating less, buying less, doing less, and making more time for simply communing with what is.
On a wonderful call I did recently on the topic of my global heart book, we had a “Conversation Concerto” in which listeners chimed in about the question: “What can we do collectively to address the challenges of transformation that face us?” Over and over again, listeners stated the need for quiet and emptiness as one of the most important things we can do.
We must disengage a clutch in order to change gears. We have let go of what is to open to something new. We have to be quiet to listen to guidance. Quieting down aligns with this time of year, when the green growing things are resting, settling their seeds underground for a winter’s rest.
So this holiday weekend, treasure your moments of nothing. Treasure the shared silence of gratitude before your big meal. Treasure the belly that isn’t overly full. Treasure the day off that allows you to visit with friends or family. Take a deep breath and remember to love both the things and the place.