Stillness is the Question and the Answer

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth GilbertNot that long ago I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book “Eat, Pray, Love”. I had first stumbled upon it in the tiny (and only) café store on Monhegan Island this summer. It sounded intriguing but when I went back to purchase it there were none left. I didn’t remember the author or the book title, just something basic about a woman traveling to several countries alone over the course of a year and that it was a true soul searching sort of book (my favorite kind!).

Then, as divine timing would have it, in September Oprah was talking about the book and had Gilbert on as a guest. I knew it was the same book and I waited for an upcoming trip with my family so I could cajole my Mom into buying it for me (yes, an only child at 38 still does these sorts of things!). All I could say is I devoured the book. To me it is the kind you can’t put down and one of those rare books that taps into the deep, rich questions of what it means to live and does so in such an authentic voice and down to earth way.

Shortly after finishing the book, I noticed there was an Oprah follow up show with Gilbert as guest. On this show they talked about how readers have responded to this book. It was amazing to see the power one little book can have. There were people in the audience who had made pilgrimage to Bali, others who had made big leaps of faith in their lives, and still others who for the first time ever started to give themselves permission to care for and listen to their inner voice. Amazing stuff.

What struck me most about the conversation was Gilbert’s answer to a question about what is the most important lesson she learned through her journey. Like all aha moments, the depth and simplicity of her answer struck me. She shared that taking time for stillness each day to ask the big life questions is the most important thing she learned and that is missing for so many people.

Taking time for stillness each day to ask and to listen.

There’s the secret in a nutshell right there. From my own personal experience I guarantee you that if you own this sentence and put it into practice in your own life your life will radically shift. From this space you can dwell in life’s great questions and discern the answers that are right for you in your life right here, right now. It is one of the top techniques and secrets to becoming comfortable in your own skin that I teach and coach.

You might be thinking “Oh but I am so busy I don’t have time each day to sit or be still, I mean what would I be DOING?!” Let me say that I hear your resistance and I can and will write more on that. But here’s the thing — creating a daily practice can be freeing not confining. And on the occasions that you have to miss your daily time let that be OK. I found it refreshing when a viewer on the show asked Gilbert how she could possibly get up before dawn each day and meditate for so long. Gilbert answered that it is an important practice that feeds her life. She also said loud and clear that we are human, we have regular lives (or as she put it “I live a regular life in New Jersey and all that brings with it; so sometimes I just miss it.”) and that missing is OK. Essentially what she was saying was don’t beat yourself up about it;do your best, but make a commitment to do it.

That’s all we can really do is our best. So be OK with that. Release your expectation. In the same vein though, don’t let the things that matter most — being still and pausing to ask and to listen — take a backseat to the things that matter least (all the frantic “doing” that makes up most of our daily lives).

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