When was the last time you spent 10 minutes in total silence? No noise, no distractions, no background ambiance: just total, complete silence? This was a question I asked some high school students several years ago (before smart phones were even the norm.) Most of them said that they had never done so in their entire lives.
An entire life lived without ten minutes of silence.
Naturally, I assigned them this task as part of their homework. They had to go somewhere alone, preferably in nature, without electronic gadgets and without other people, to sit in total silence for 10 whole minutes. For those who were open to it, this kind of exercise actually changed their approach to life. They learned the value of contemplation and the benefits of settling their souls into stillness in a world of rush and busyness.
Why does silence hold such power? Why can a mere 10 minutes change us?
Several years ago, I went to an evening of art and wine for ladies, where our host had arranged for us to make Jesse Tree ornaments. She had done the hard work of drawing all the art. Our job was fairly simple: we were to cut out the little drawings and glue them onto wooden ornaments.
Despite the kindergarten-level simplicity of the task, it was remarkably difficult to do perfectly. In fact, at one point she lamented that one of mine had been glued on crooked. I was frustrated at myself for messing up something so easy—but I had begun to work on letting go of perfectionism.
My response was that I knew it, but I wasn’t going to fix it. I forced myself to accept my mistake and move on. [Does it still bother me a little every year when we pull out the ornaments? You bet. But is it also a reminder to accept imperfection? Absolutely.]
If you are not a perfectionist, this post may not make much sense. (As ever, it’s important to know where you are to know where you need to aim. If you don’t suffer with perfectionism, the advice below probably doesn’t apply to you.)
Have you ever found yourself looking for help with difficult decision, only to leave the conversation feeling like the other person’s ideas just didn’t fit? Or worse, have you ever followed a piece of advice, only to realise later that it was terrible advice for you, even if the person giving it meant well? Maybe you’ve received good advice, but were in a place where you just weren’t ready to hear it?
It seems like there are very few occasions in life that are helped by direct advice: either it doesn’t really work for our unique situation, or we need to move forward on our own in order to discover our own best path.
Of course, sometimes in the process of discernment, we can get stuck in our own heads, trapped in a circle of thoughts that don’t seem to lead anywhere. Our position as an ‘insider’ to our own situation can make us unable to see outside things. Sometimes we can even miss things that are glaringly obvious! Continue Reading
The “shoulds” is a condition that I’ve noticed in my own life, and in the lives of those who struggle with perfectionism – although it can affect others, too!
Someone with the “shoulds”:
“should” try harder. Try harder at being a better person. Try harder at not being so lazy. Try harder at doing whatever thing is the thing to be doing – growing houseplants, becoming a minimalist, buying eco-friendly clothing.
“should” work more. Lean in. Hustle. Have a side-gig.
“should” seize the day more. You Only Live Once, so they should climb the mountain, see the sunrise, eat crickets.
“Shoulds” are burdensome. They lead to constant guilt about all the things we aren’t doing, and to none of the joy about the things we are.
Someone with the “shoulds” basically just feels bad about existing most of the time. Continue Reading