New Year’s Resolutions? Oh, my, not again. Every year. And every year they fail because we (or maybe I) resolve to do something in the future. In 2021, I will finally ..fill in the blank.. lose those last five pounds, I will…I will, I will. What if we resolve to do something that can happen right now, in this moment, a way to be rather than something to do?
I remember years ago. A CEO hired me to help her teams function more harmoniously. I came to her company each week to listen to ten of her employees. They dubbed us, “the Thursday group.” I heard their lists of what worked well and what didn’t. “So and so talks too much.” “This one is too bossy.” “That one is too passive.”
They expected a harsh “intervention.” I had another word for our introduction. Stillness. Stillness might have worried them as much as harshness. Maybe more, I imagined.
Their usual talk sounded like, “who’s to blame for….?” “where was that person when…?” I wanted them to listen differently to themselves and others. I began. “Let’s start by stopping, arrive here, drop into this moment. Let’s take some quiet time.”
They readjusted themselves and closed their eyes. I continued: “Feel your body seated here. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your breath coming and going.”
Shoulders relaxed away from ears; jaws loosened. Yet one man in the corner scrunched his face. His cheeks tightened around his nose as if to say, “I’m too busy for this. Who does this at work?”
I said something like, “for now, our being together in silence is enough. To sit. To breathe. Stillness can create dynamic change. Silence can invite new conversations.”
They would soon leave this room, check e-mails, answer calls. They would re-engage as human doings. As we sat, I read a quote from poet David Whyte: “In silence, in the way we listen, (we come to) a different ear, a more perceptive eye, an imagination refusing to come too early to a conclusion, and belonging to a different person than the one who first entered the silence.”
When they opened their eyes, I asked, “Now, what about the bossy one, the passive one, and the one who talks too much?”
One woman offered, “I love to chatter and gossip. It’s not always good. I can use this stopping before mouthing off, or maybe not mouthing off at all. This pausing will open up choice.”
The team leader said, “I am a boss, but I don’t need to be bossy. It never occurred to me that there’s a place for silence in a work day.”
Each person reported feeling more settled. “More space inside” one said. This one- or two-minute meditation became the ground from which we entered future work.
- Mindfulness teacher Christina Feldman writes, “Silence is the first casualty of an addiction to busyness.” So we learn to stop.
- In Chinese calligraphy, I’m told the word for “busy” has two characters translated as “heart” and “killing.” Heart killing. So we learn to stop.
- If the transformation of heart in the Thursday group shows us anything, could it be true, at least in part, what Blaise Pascal wrote? “That all of our unhappiness derives from one single source—not being able to sit quietly in a room.”
In most of my Christmas greetings this year, I wrote, “here’s to a brighter 2021.” So I wonder, in 2021, how might things be different, brighter, if our resolutions have something to do with a few moments daily of simple stillness?