“It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom y ou have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
These are the last two stanzas of Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem, “The Invitation.”
Life moves at an amazing pace and sometimes, when we sit in a moment of stillness, we don’t know how to handle it, what to do with ourselves. I have a meditation practice that allows me to sit in stillness, it’s really an amazing reflection for me. But to a point, even meditation is scheduled, a thing to “do”.
We define ourselves by what we do, each day, consistently. We label ourselves as a mother, a boss, a teacher, a fireman or in my case, a television producer. But who are we when this is stripped away? Are we really comfortable in our own skin.
On occasion, in my profession, there are moments when you’re in between “gigs”, where you finish up one project and there’s a period of time before the next begins. For years, I’ve called this the “creative black hole”. The first day or two can be fun, the feeling of limited responsibility, freedom to take care of small errands or just taking the day off to read a book or go on a walk. But then the creative darkness hits and it’s almost like a depression. Without that element to “create” sitting in front of me, it’s like I don’t know who I am. Artistic expression gets to be like caffeine, a drug, when it’s removed from your daily experience, you begin to crave it. Also, being tied to what is created form a sort of identity of its own. Even as I sit here and write this, I feel a relief, because at least I’m creating something. It becomes a way to continue to run, run away from my true self, from my feelings, it keeps me from “being alone with myself”. It’s a distraction. I’m not saying I don’t like who I am, or my situation in life or anything like that. I’m saying that “stillness” like most others, makes me uncomfortable.
How many other things are in our lives as a distraction? Entertainment is obvious, television, sporting events, books, dinners out with friends. Exercise can be a form of literally running away from ourselves. Even when we are counseling friends, it can be a way to disconnect from our own being.
I’m not suggesting we strip this all away. I’m asking why do we pack so much of it into our lives? To the point where maybe we don’t recognize ourselves as easily anymore.
“What sustains you from the inside out when all else falls away?” and “Can you be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep?” Both integral questions that invite us to stop and take a closer look and refine our relationship with ourselves. Because the building block for a strong relationship with the world, with others is knowing who we are at our core. And the only way to get to know yourself is not to move, not to study, not to investigate, discuss or even write about. It’s not about moving and filling the empty moments with anything. The way to get to know yourself is to be in the uncomfortable moments of stillness and realize that they aren’t empty at all, they are filled with the essence of you.