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Gathering Stillness in the New Year

A prescient gift from me to me

Not quite two years ago I bought myself a chair. In a move that was shockingly out of character, I went to an actual furniture store, sat in many brand-new, upholstered chairs, ordered the one that felt like coming home when I leaned back into it, and then waited 10-12 weeks for it to arrive.

I love my chair. I have no hesitation whatsoever about asking whoever is in it to get up when I want to sit down. Until this week, however, I did not know that my chair was a gift I’d given to myself to facilitate a vitally necessary, soul-level change.

You see, it wasn’t until I began pondering my intentions (a word that sounds to my ear more forgiving than resolutions) for 2022 that I realized I’d been yearning for a change for quite some time. In fact, I think it was this same yearning – at the time subliminal – that led me to buy my chair.

Stillness as a way of life

I have been yearning for stillness. Not stillness like you might have imagined when you read the word. Not inertia, not hours a day on a meditation cushion, not a lack of action at all. I yearn to bring into my daily life the sense of stillness that I glimpse deep within myself as I practice yoga or meditation.

In my imagination (after all, it’s only January 3 as I write this, so I’m still exploring and might be for years), the stillness I seek is a slower, more mindful pace. It is a sense of spaciousness in my days. It is an ability to prioritize. It is a freedom from compulsive, anxiety-driven doing.

While the stillness I’m describing might manifest more as a mindset, a perspective, and an attitude than anything else, it is quite real. It is tangible. I have felt it and I want more of it.

“The purpose of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.”  [1]Pico Iyer

I want to live the full life that I am grateful to have – to do the work I love, to enjoy the people I love, to learn to love even the “in-between” moments in my days – from a place of stillness.

A New Year’s intention takes shape

How do I hope to do this? Over the last several weeks I have been gathering bits and pieces of wisdom that surprised me by coming together to form a New Year’s intention to bring a sense of stillness in my days. (See the footnotes for links to these inspiring sources.)

A daily 60-second practice with my calendar

I am spending about a minute (just 60 seconds!) with my calendar each morning right after I meditate. During this minute, I pause and send a little love to each person I am meeting with that day.[2]

This quick practice is changing my approach to my day. Rather than tromping into my day like a warrior facing a series of tasks to be defeated, I find myself feeling as if I have a series of opportunities for connection ahead of me. Better still (I know this is a little “woo woo”), I am finding that, somehow, the quality of each interaction has shifted because of that little burst of early morning love.

Margins to protect the quality of every day

I am building margins into my day.[3] To me margins are windows of time I block out on my calendar for the spaciousness I need to “gather stillness.” This stillness is for my own well-being but is far from a selfish practice. Margins allow me to be more generous and present in all my relationships. Neither you nor I can love well (irritating strangers or dearest loved ones) if we are busily rushing around.

For years I have made and kept appointments with myself to practice yoga. But – whether it’s a lingering symptom of the pandemic or grief – I find myself needing more space to feel like the person I yearn to be. While what supports you will be 100% personal, my margins currently allow me time to meditate, do a little inspirational reading, write in my journal, and even get on my yoga mat for a few minutes.

Low expectations allow the space for messing up and trying again

Finally, I am giving myself the gift of “really, really low expectations” [4] when it comes to my New Year’s intention. (Please read or listen to Nadia Bolz-Weber’s blessing. It’s simply beautiful.) I am choosing to remind myself over and over that my intention is just that – an intention.

It’s a hope, not a plan. It’s a yearning that I am trying to follow, not a command I must successfully implement. It’s not another of my anxious attempts to control life. Stillness is, instead, a situation for success I hope to create for myself.

It is such a new way of being for me that I know without a doubt I will mess up. I also know that I will know when I have messed up. After all, I am intimately familiar with what not living from a place of stillness feels like – rushed, busy, sleepless, anxious. When these sensations show up, as I know they will, I plan to welcome them. I plan to feel grateful for these reminders of my New Year’s intention.


What will I do when I notice these feelings? Sit myself down in my beloved chair and pause. I will pause until my path through the swirl of motion around me and within me begins to become clear. I will pause until I can step away from my old habit of busy motion and toward my new habit of living from a place of stillness.

Wish me well. I wish you the same as we step forth into 2022.

If you, like me, are interested in drawing your spiritual practices into the way you live your life, please take the time to explore my website or drop me a note. I’d love to meet you!

[1] Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
[2] Interview with Richard Davidson, founder and director for the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. On Being with Krista Tippet, Vivek Murthy and Richard Davidson: The Future of Well-being. December 2, 2021.
[3] “The Unbusy Pastor” by Eugene Peterson, Christianity Today, 1981
[4] A Blessing for the new year, by Nadia Bolz Weber, The Corners, December 30, 2021