I have recently become aware that I have been committing violence.
Yes, me. Violence.
But wait a minute…I am the most non-violent person I know. I love peace. I am a meditation teacher. I teach peace. Power to the peaceful! It wasn’t until I read the words of Thomas Merton that I realized the truth:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow one’s self to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit one’s self to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
I’m one of those people who fails to recognize my own stress. Life is perfect; life is good. I have no complaints. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that, yes, maybe I have been stressed and too busy. Maybe there is a reason that I haven’t been sleeping, that I’m tired a lot, and that I can’t seem to shake that extra 20 pounds I’m carrying around. And maybe that reason is that I’m stressed. Hmm, maybe.
Recently, I got sick. A virus. Knocked me on my butt for 10 days. I never get sick. But boy, I was sick. For over a week, I couldn’t do anything but sleep. And the world didn’t come to an end. The contrast to my normal life of busyness was eye opening.
For the past several years, I have worked full-time, started a new part-time business, volunteered for a non-profit that I’m terribly passionate about, checked off several projects on an unending list of projects on my fixer-upper 100-year old house, taken care of two wonderful, furry family members who depend on me for their happiness, tried to spend some time with family and friends, created a new website, worked on a teaching certification…and on and on and on, while trying to finally clean that area between the stove and the cabinet and get some laundry done.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I can’t begin to imagine how those of you who add to that typical list by taking care of children or aging parents or working three jobs do it. My point here is that too many of us are too busy. And we are creating violence. Serious violence toward ourselves.
I hear it from my massage therapy clients daily:
No time for play.
Too many responsibilities.
No time for me.
What are we doing all this for anyway?
But, aside from that, what if we find a way to take a break?
The world went on, as it does, while I was sick. Thank you, virus, for teaching me that I can—and need to—let go of a few things in order to create some time for just “being.” A capable, wonderful person can blossom by taking my place on my non-profit board for a while. I can teach one meditation class a week instead of filling my schedule with workshops and retreats on top of running a full-time massage therapy business. I can say, “No, thanks” when I would rather stay home than go out with friends. They’re learning to understand my need for solitude.
Creating some time in my life is taking care of me. It is creating peace. Waking up without an agenda on my day off is a heavenly thing that I didn’t have for many years. Letting go is creating space. Space for more being. Space for reflection and awareness. Space for noticing the beauty of my blooming garden. For being present. For creating more peace.
As my fantasy boyfriend, Henry David Thoreau, said about just sitting in his doorway from sunrise til noon, rapt in a reverie, ”I grew in those seasons, like corn in the night; and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.” Hank gets me. We would have been great together.
So what I know is this: when we create our own peace, we contribute to a peaceful world. We don’t do this by creating violence of any kind. Violence is not just an outward creation. We often and ever so subtly commit violence toward our self. Peace comes from awareness. And awareness feels a lot like stillness. I’ll be having more of that.
Author: Denise Lyon
Image: Unsplash/Mike Wilson
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Callie Rushton