“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone.”
– Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Lately I’ve been busy. I used to be proud about how busy my life was. How I worked long hours attentive to every detail. Now I prefer to make the time to attend to my inner life. I’m a social person, but without enough alone time, without enough unplugged time, without enough time in nature I have to work harder to stay happy and balanced. What I find now is it takes less stimulus from the outside world to make my insides sing.
Yesterday, on a glorious fall day, I went for an early morning walk on the beach. There wasn’t another person there. The cry of eagles, crows and seagulls filled the soft sweet air. I sat on a log happily eating a picnic breakfast thinking there was no place I’d rather be in that moment. My food tasted declious, but it was the silence and solitude that fed my soul.
Now I’m proudest when I can say I had the time to do nothing. When every moment of my life isn’t booked, when there’s space to breathe in the present moment, to sit and write a poem, to hold my husband’s hand, to sip tea with a friend in comfortable silence.
In the past I might’ve missed my morning walk on the beach because I made the things on my to do list more important. The thing is I worked so hard not for riches, but for personal freedom. But what good is that freedom if I keep myself locked into old patterns that no longer serve me?
In quiet moments I often think of the lines from the Mary Oliver poem, The Summer Day, a poem that reminds me that doing less is often better – and so much more:
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?”