STOP! is a good word to have in your pocket. It’s short, abrupt, and good in emergencies.
When I ride my horse, we have a movement called the “half-halt.” It’s a movement to pause and re-balance–often taking only a second. It’s key to good dressage riding.
I was I had a “half-halt” for daily life.
Overwhelm is back
I had hoped we were done for a while, but I hear overwhelm is back, or at least it’s come back into my life over the past few days.
How can one not feel overwhelmed with Ukraine, crazy politics, gerrymandering, Covid, refugees, and the rest? The list is long.
Then, when you stir in a few personal events, Iike a partner’s health crisis, a friend with family in Ukraine, a friend with cancer, or any kind of loss, you set the stage for the emotional hijacking known as overwhelm.
When a mélange of difficulties coalesce, my brain can succumb to a bout of I-can’t-do-this-it-is-all-too-muchness.
That’s why it helps me to remember one word: STOP, (which I follow with silence and be still).
It’s an instruction to my over-thinking mind to go off duty, at least for a few minutes.
A half-halt in the middle of life.
STOP works because it is effective.
When I’m driving and come to a red octagon with STOP on it, I don’t have to think. I stop.
STOP interrupts the flow of thoughts that has me swirling in circles. STOP reminds me that I’m not responsible for the universe. STOP tells me that when things get tough it’s ok to do nothing. At least for a while.
Because, once I stop, I can experience silence and stillness.
Silence and Stillness
Silence brings me relief, a safe harbor in which I can switch into my senses and let the music of the world flow through me. I don’t have to listen because sounds can come and go.
Silence is like a point zero from which I can find my inner impulse to create. Silence is the rest between notes that makes sounds more vibrant. Silence allows me to hear.
From silence I move to stillness.
Still! is a soul command, a permission to do nothing and just be. If I am walking or moving a little, I can find stillness within.
Our culture rewards people for doing. Have you ever been at a memorial service where the officiant said, “She spent a lot of time in stillness, just being?” I haven’t. Usually what I hear is a list of people’s accomplishments.
We are rewarded for doing. Yet when life is churning around us, our souls crave a different reward: stillness.
Meditators know this. But I am talking about more than meditation. I’m looking for half-halts, resets I can use in the midst of the fray.
I’ve written about other ways we can help our nervous systems and take care of our brains (sing, draw, hum. etc), but sometimes doing even these can feel too complicated.
At least until I’ve had a chance to STOP, Be Silent, Be Still.
Perhaps after stopping I’ll discover something I can do to support situations over which I have so little influence.
Or perhaps, in the silence, I’ll hear a voice within telling me to sit, settle and allow the greening of spring,
In the spirit of silence, I picked out my three favorite covers of Sounds of Silence. Warning: despite how the Simon and Garfunkle original carried us along with it with its tune, the song is dark, yet one of the best songs to come out of the 1960s.
The first cover below is from Pentatonix, a band whose diverse members bring great harmonies. Another is from an amazing young woman whose eyes glisten with youth as she fills the space with her sound. The third is by Disturbed, a cover (and smash hit) I find achingly haunting and gorgeous.
Here’s to another kind of silence: the kind that renews then allows us to see,