Stillness and Quietude

In stillness and quietude, you’ll hear your soul’s wisdom. Take “soul breaks” often, and just breathe and allow.

Every so often, I’d post the above thought (or variations thereof) on Twitter, and it remains a crowd favorite. With the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s easy for our days to go on auto-pilot, filled with mindless busyness and reactive action. To exacerbate the race against time, it seems that rising with the ever increasing ways we’re connected electronically—thanks to mobile technology and social media—are expectations around being always available and in constant communication. Perhaps that’s why we fundamentally value a reminder to get back to the basics, to be still and quiet regularly. I know I do, and that’s why my daily spiritual practice is critical to me. After all, our soul holds the highest vision for our life, including our dreams. Regular dates with stillness and quietude dissolve the busy-life static blocking our soul’s guidance on what’s for our highest good.

Emerald BayStillness and Quietude in Meditation

Last Friday morning, I meditated for almost an hour—that didn’t include time spent on the rest of my typical morning routine, with includes journaling, spiritual reading and contemplation. Unlike other mornings, I didn’t know how long I was going to meditate, but was simply intent on letting it go as long as it needed to last. My rational mind told me I couldn’t afford to take the time, as I was behind in some work I needed to finish before heading out of town for several days. But, I chose to listen to my soul. I knew that, if I didn’t follow this inner nudge, I’d end up slugging through my to-dos, attempting to create from a low-energy, less-than-inspired place, and ultimately being frustrated and disappointed with what I’d have produced. Past experience with ignoring inner guidance has taught me that much.

I closed my eyes and set the following intention: I’m not looking for any answers. I simply want to be in the Presence. With my intention set, I felt myself letting go and slipping into a deep meditative trance. I became a non-judgmental inner observer of an unscripted montage of thoughts and to-dos. There was no trace of anxiety, worry or any other troubling emotions that’d normally accompany these pictures. I didn’t attempt to stop the movie or return my focus to my breathing, as I’d normally do when my rational mind intrudes into my meditation time. I simply watched the production of my mind as a detached audience, feeling lighter and freer as each emotionless mental image came and went on its own accord. At the end of the meditation, I felt completely at peace and content, free of any needs or wants. Everything was perfect just as it was, and there wasn’t anything to improve or resolve in my life. My soul knew how much I needed to allow myself to have that time and space of stillness and quietude.

Emerald BayReturning to Instinctive Knowing

This experience reminded me of what I knew instinctively as a child. When I was 5, I lived for the 15-minute recess at school every weekday, not because I got to let loose and play with abandon like every other kid. Instead, as soon as the school bell went off, I’d run as quickly as I could up a flight of really dark and scary stairs to the 3rd floor of one of the buildings where the school chapel was located. Day after day, as all the other kids screamed and had the time of their lives in the playground below outside, I was perfectly content to kneel alone in silence in the school chapel. There wasn’t another spot in the world I’d rather be. In those precious 15 minutes each day, I didn’t wish I was a boy or that I was lovable. In those precious 15 minutes each day, I was OK just as I was, and nothing about me needed to be fixed. My nose wasn’t too flat, my mouth wasn’t too big, nor was I clumsy, slow, stupid, and possibly developmentally challenged because I wasn’t gregarious like other children. That’s because, in those precious 15 minutes each day, I was one with Pure, Unconditional Love.

As I grew up and strived to prove myself to be a self-sufficient and socially acceptable citizen, my defensive self completely took over, operating through my rational mind. I learned to hang onto more and more feeble attempts at controlling life and, in the process, cut myself off from what I instinctively knew as a young child. A few decades later, I’m coming back a full circle to prioritizing being still and quiet every day, to connect with my soul and let it guide me away from all kinds of needless effort and strife that only serves to tie me up in chains of my own making.

Nature as a Teacher

Emerald BayAside from my daily spiritual practice, I’ve come to appreciate more and more the importance of being out in nature regularly. As Dr. Deepak Chopra said, when we commune with nature, our rhythm gets synchronized with that of mother earth, and we feel a natural state of wellbeing that’s within us all along. It helps us to restore our vitality and reconnect to our soul, our authentic self, and to remember the truth of who we are and why we’re here, no matter how much our day-to-day busy life challenges our memory of that. To me, nature is also a great teacher for learning to be patient and to surrender the fear-based need to know and to control how life unfolds. In nature, everything exists effortlessly in perfect order and timing.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This past weekend, I was in North Tahoe to speak at a retreat. At first, I was eager to get home as soon as my work there was complete. But, at one point during an off-site cocktail party after my talk, I saw the lake water outside and felt it beckoning my soul. There I was, in one of the prettiest spots on earth, and my rational mind told me I couldn’t afford to linger. My soul had apparently summoned reinforcement, as I happened to sit next to the friend of one of the speakers who took pictures of Emerald Bay, a spot on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. In that moment, I knew I needed to take a little time to enjoy some of the beauty of where I was, over-ruling the strenuous objection from my rational mind which urged me to get on the road as soon as possible.

So, on Monday, I took the longer route home to drive along a section of the shoreline and to make a stop at Emerald Bay. As I felt the nurturing sunshine on my skin, breathed in the fresh air and admired the majestic trees, glorious blue sky and mesmerizing lake water, my being was filled with awe, appreciation and love for the varied wonders and the non-striving beauty of the universe. On my hike down to the bay and back up, there were moments when I noticed the hurriedness my rational mind attempted to press upon my consciousness about all that awaited my return at home. I didn’t try to make those thoughts wrong, but I was also mindful of not letting them dampen the exquisite date with nature I was enjoying. With my soul fed, even though driving is one of my least favorite things to do, for the next 4 hours I was on the road, I drove in peaceful contentment, appreciation and love.

What about you? Do you take “soul breaks”? Do you allow time to be still and quiet? Do you take time to be out in nature? Would love for you to share your thoughts/feelings in the comment box below.


Photos: Taken at Emerald Bay, South Tahoe.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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Beautiful and hearty reminders!  It is so very true that in 'stillness and quietude, you'll hear your soul's wisdom'. I often take myself there and listen to my inner words of calm, patience, love and faith along with my walks into the heavenly stillness of the countrysides, the soft voice of the woods and lakes.  I so love this blog for I can truly relate to it and thank you so very much for deep reminders.

Linda Joy
Linda Joy

Alice, it is my 'soul breaks' that give me strength, guidance and peace and allow me to find my center point and maintain a sense of balance in my life. I love your opening quote.... "In stillness and quietude, you’ll hear your soul’s wisdom." Beautiful reminder that we all need to take time for solitude.

Kumar Gauraw
Kumar Gauraw

Incredible wisdom in these lines - "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Wow! Phenomenal post Dr. Chan. I do take some "Soul breaks" often and those are the best moments that energize my rest of the day when I do. Do I have the discipline to do it everyday consistently? Not yet... but I am working and getting better at it as I have come to realize the power of meditation and stillness. This is an incredible concept that we can only feel and that feeling is absolutely incredible! Thank you for sharing your experience! Enjoyed reading your experience.

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Thanks for this important reminder. I especially enjoyed this phrase - "the non-striving beauty of the universe". The rational mind can certainly be a task master. When we choose to gently thank our selves for the reminder of the things we need to do and then go one with our time of refreshing and beauty life takes on a much more natural flow. The photos are beautiful! Your willingness to listen to your soul give the rest of us the opportunity to enjoy (at least a little) and share in the experience.

DrAliceChan moderator

@spartapoet Many thanks, Sal! In our fast-paced world, it seems to be such a luxury to be still and listen. Yet, when we do, we realize that there's really no need to hurry because all we end up missing is the unnecessary busyness that somehow feels important to us when it isn't. At least that has been my experience, which is why what inspired this post was so profound to me. I'm grateful that you enjoyed it, and thank you for adding your voice here. Many blessings to you!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Linda, thank you for validating from your personal experience the importance of "soul breaks." Knowing what you've created for women around the world, it's a huge testament to the power of tuning into our soul's wisdom. Many Blessings to you!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks for sharing your comments, Kumar! Yes, that Emerson quote is quite powerful. Nothing in nature strives and worries about deadlines like the human species. Thank you also for sharing a little about your meditation practice. Any time we can spend being still and quiet is certainly valuable. Appreciate your share.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thanks, Scott! It's such a mindfulness practice to give ourselves permission to surrender to the natural flow, when we've spent our whole life trying to make things happen. Our soul knows that no strife is necessary. Glad you enjoyed the post and appreciated the photos. :-)

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