My client sat before me, tense and expectant, having robotically reported the results of the journaling assignment I’d given her at the end of our previous coaching session. “So what next?” she demanded of me. “What else can I do?”
Ah, the seduction of doing…the lure of constant productivity. We have come to believe that our power to achieve results lies in nonstop action and a relentless drive to make forward progress. We plan and plot and push, exhorting ourselves to make things happen. We take action, any action, just to convince ourselves we’re getting somewhere. We don’t recognize that we’re robbing ourselves of power’s true power by defining it only as the “action” part of the creative cycle and leaving “stillness” to fend for itself - flaccid, limp and powerless.
Stillness gets a very bad rap in this culture. Most times it’s considered synonymous with illness, numbness or just plain laziness - quite the opposite of power. Yet consider the pulse of creation as we witness it in the ebb and flow of the tides and the changing of the seasons, and as we experience it through our very breath: stasis - expansion - stasis - contraction. All aspects of the cycle are essential to the whole; stasis and contraction are not less important than expansion and in fact, without them, new creative waves of expansion could not emerge. We’d be stuck on a fast track of sameness, a mindless expansion of more with no capacity for deeper or better or greater.
You won’t see this in Merriam-Webster, but my definition of power reads something like this: power is the force that maintains and expresses our natural state of wholeness. It is our ever-present “energy signature,” a force field that holds and attracts, a vibration that calls forth our particular form from formlessness. And this force that moves us toward wholeness and full self-expression is already within us, an essential aspect of our constitution. We each have the power to live our life’s purpose and, in so doing, to serve the greater good. We each have the power to bring our longings to life. We each have the power to claim the truth of who we are.
I believe one of the reasons many of us don’t experience power this way is that we do not invite or allow periods of stillness in our lives; we don't honor the time and space we need to go within - to recharge, to review, to renew, to replenish. We have crammed our power into action mode, and have let stillness degenerate into mindless “downtime” such as reading celebrity trash-zines or watching reality TV or drinking wine - or drinking wine while watching reality TV! Now, please know that I have personally engaged in many mindless “downtime” activities, and still do. And yet I realize they do not replenish me: at best they distract me from those niggling worries that, if given my full attention, would most certainly render me powerless; at worst, they are like junk food for my soul - tasty in the moment but not at all nutritious.
And so I’ve consciously carved time for stillness into my life, and I’ve released power from the stranglehold of “action only” and ushered it into those still moments. And I’ve found that powerful stillness, in the form of meditation and prayer and journaling and quiet contemplation, enriches and nourishes me. It is a wonderful breeding ground for the penetrating awareness we need to make new and compassionate choices. Inviting power into stillness allows us to go deep without drowning; we can observe our fears and doubts without letting them consume us. We consciously choose to connect with our deepest truth and let it support us from the inside out.
Which brings me back to my client. It turns out she didn’t need to do anything more. She needed only to drop into the stillness beneath all the methodical doing, and to listen for the whispers of comfort, inspiration and truth that were waiting for her there. As she returned to the surface world of action, she knew what her next step needed to be. And she felt empowered to take it.