I’m all for getting back into the post-Labor Day swing of things, so long as it’s not the same swing that I was in before my break. (And, to be honest, I hope Congress feels the same way, because none of us want them to swing back into business as usual — especially when it comes to critical life and death issues like gun reform.)
My pre-break life was harried and hurried. I felt more distracted than present. I had more “should’s” on my calendar than “want to’s.”
More often than not, I felt like I was running in place. I was doing way too much, all while feeling like I was either not doing enough or wondering whether I was doing anything at all.
Breaking a pattern is never easy, but I’m determined not to go back to the way I was. I’m determined to move forward with focus, ease and this new feeling of calmness that has eluded me most, if not all, of my life.
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find myself operating from a place of stillness this week, even while doing live TV. I found myself clear, calm and centered. I was able to say no when I needed to, and yes when I wanted to.
A friend said to me the other day, “Maria, don’t you wish you had found your stillness decades ago?”
“Yes and no,” I replied. “I’m a big believer that you find your awe — your epiphany moment — when you are meant to in life. And the truth is, I’ve been on a profound journey for many years, as I’ve been searching, questioning, wondering, working, debating and going round-and-round.”
Maybe I exhausted God. Maybe I just exhausted myself. But through it all, I came to my realization that I am good, whole, worthy and lovable, regardless of what I accomplish professionally. My epiphany came at just the right moment. I can’t stress enough how good you can feel, and how empowered you can feel, if you just slow things down and embrace stillness, solitude, serenity, and quiet.
Don’t fear the stillness like I used to do. It won’t hurt you, I promise. It won’t derail your career. You won’t lose your edge. We’re all headed to the same place anyway, so what’s the hurry?
The truth is, history is full of people who made an impact on our world from a place of stillness and reflection. It’s full of people who got a lot done without being plugged in all the time. Just look at Jesus, Gandhi, Thoreau, and Einstein, to name a few.
Tuning out in order to tune in might just allow you to get more done. It will help you get clear about what you are doing, as opposed to what others want you to do. You might just be more effective in your job and your home if you weren’t hurried, preoccupied and in a permanent state of distress.
The fact is, millions are getting sick from stress and the overall way we are living and working. A life on overdrive just keeps you from being truly connected to those who need you most (including yourself).
You need you, and our world needs you. You need to know you at this precise moment in your life. You aren’t the same you as last Labor Day, and you most likely won’t be the same at this time again next year.
So, take a breath. Take a beat. Be courageous enough to slow down. Try five minutes in the morning and then five minutes again at night. Try taking a walk through nature. Try writing down your new narrative and describe yourself as someone you respect and admire. Give yourself the loving, compassionate, heroic narrative that you deserve.
Now more than ever, I believe that our world needs people who operate from a place of stillness. We need parents who can parent from a quiet place within. We need leaders who are calm and centered. We need business executives who reflect on their work and consider how they can act in our nation’s best interest, like Walmart did this week by limiting ammunition sales and discouraging open-carry.
For years, Walmart was hesitant to change its gun policies, but America isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago, and our businesses don’t have to be either. They can evolve with us. They can create social change. They can rewrite their narrative. At the end of the day, we’re in desperate need of people in all areas of human endeavor who are focused and clear about what they are bringing to the world. We need them to bring their best selves — their still, loving, caring, compassionate selves — to our larger family table.
My friend Albina lost her only child many years ago, and after reading my essay last Sunday, she wrote to me and said: “Maria, welcome to the summit of wisdom. Up here, it’s serene. It’s quiet. It’s still.”
It’s from that place that Albina has been working to change the world in her son’s name. It’s from that place — a place that I imagine is filled with all of us who are suffering, grieving and wounded — that we can move humanity forward and toward a place of compassion.
My real takeaway after talking to people this week is that we’re all one conversation away from tears. We’re all one question away from baring our souls to another human being. We’re all dealing with shame, loneliness, fear, grief and loss in some way. When we reach out to someone and open the door for them to be vulnerable, we open the floodgates for people to feel included, seen, heard and less alone.
When you approach people from a place of stillness, peace and understanding, they will show up and invite you into their world. What I’ve come to realize is that vulnerability is our greatest strength. Empathy is our greatest medal of honor. I wasn’t taught this growing up, but now I know it to be true.
It’s from that summit, that mountaintop, that I want to go out into my whole wide world and make it better. Join me, won’t you?