Sunday, August 31, 2008

Autumn Quiet Time...

I've always loved the quickening of fall.  Families preparing for school.  Crisp, cool air.  Vibrant colours. Even the squirrels, picking up the tempo of their gathering and storing.

But as the  s-l-o-w  energy of the summer rises to meet the demands of the fall you may be wondering how to keep some of the s-l-o-w in your autumn days. How to make space for quiet and rest amidst the busyness.  

Well, it takes conscious awareness, conscious planning and a daytimer.  (And, frequently, some requests for help as well.) 

Awareness can show us islands of quiet we hadn't realized were there.  I have always loved pulling weeds, a" busy" occupation but one that leaves me with uninterrupted time for my own thoughts and feelings. Others have found similar quiet space while mowing the lawn, walking the dog, washing the dishes or doing the ironing. Still others find it in their daily showers, while flossing their teeth or while sitting in traffic. When we become aware of this unrecognized time, we can use it, consciously, for taking a few slow breaths, for relaxing tight muscles, for being in the midst of doing.

We can also create space for quiet by actually writing it into our daytimers at the beginning of the week.  Some people get up half an hour early every morning to have quiet time on their own.   Others have discovered that the time it takes to boil potatoes for dinner is a perfect opening for their daily meditation.  Others, still, book regular respite at a retreat center, a friend's cottage or a local bed and breakfast or hotel.  When we block out these times on our calendars, we are more likely to honour them and to give ourselves the quiet we need.

Now, the best laid plans for quiet can go awry because of unexpected circumstances or because of our own unconscious reluctance to be quiet.   If you are dealing with uncertainties like a chronic illness or shifting work demands, try making a "plan B" for the week's quiet time  so you'll have an alternative if circumstances change.  

And, if you find that in spite of a conscious desire for quiet, you consistently "forget about" or are "too busy for" planned quiet time, you might want to consider whether grief is getting in your way. Grief, a common bond among all human beings, is an especially strong presence in the lives of most family caregivers and helping professionals and it is natural that we would want to avoid its pain -  and the quiet that allows it to emerge.  

I remember many months when stepping into the car to drive from my family caregiving at home to my professional helping at the office would trigger a flow of tears. It didn't take long to realize that it was the quiet time that was making room for my sadness.   

So, if you're having trouble creating quiet and grief is the reason, be gentle with yourself.  Wait until you feel ready, and then when the sadness comes, allow yourself to feel it for just a moment or two.  Gradually, you will be able to tolerate longer periods of grief and, as the pain eases,  you will be able to enjoy longer times of quiet and rest.    



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