I have been sitting in the coffee shop for several hours, a chai latte on my left and a stack of books on my right. This is a charming little shop, with wrought-iron chairs and big windows welcoming the sunlight. The room is full and a bit loud, but the high tin ceiling keeps it from feeling crowded. A fan spins lazily. Paper snowflakes dangle from the ceiling above where the baristas go about taking orders and grinding coffee beans.

This should be the perfect setting for me to work. During my college and graduate school years, I often left my bedroom and its distractions behind and sought homey coffee shops where I could claim a table in a dark corner. There, all set with caffeine and books, I tackled papers and readings. I jotted down ideas. I responded to emails. I got things done.

But today, in this seemingly-perfect coffee shop, I have only sat. I won’t cry writer’s block! because I’ve always been wary of that term—it seems to me a weak and potentially dangerous excuse. Why label yourself with a disorder, one that appears to need a cure? It begins to feel like something that can’t be remedied without significant effort, or someone else’s help. I’d rather not invite such a perspective. So ideas are running short one day; this doesn’t mean I have a problem. It’s just a day when other (important) things might be happening in my mind and, by extension, my spirit.

And I can let them. After two hours of sitting here waiting for the words to come for an article and a draft of a book proposal, I start to feel frustrated. Until I come to this conclusion: It is all right to be still.

I don’t mean a kind of monastic stillness, sitting in silence in a cell or posed for hours on one’s knees, though these things may have their own kind of good purpose.

Instead I mean placing a halt on the mind’s constant pursuit of doing something productive or being entertained by something external.

The Internet has made it so easy for us to eliminate moments of daydreaming, reflection, and stillness. We can always have music playing; we can always look up something new; we can always find an email to write or a bill to pay. Can’t we?

As a girl, my moments of stillness and dreaming were many. I daydreamed beneath the shade of the lilac bush in our backyard. I daydreamed in the car on the way to ballet lessons. I daydreamed on walks down the row of cottonwoods at the edge of our farm. I daydreamed in the canoe on the lake, and at the end of the dock with my legs dangling in the water.

These were not moments of trying to think about anything specific, or trying to force creativity. My mind wandered as it would, and sometimes just settled on the little things to be noticed, like how the bees buzzed with such excitement around the peonies, or how funny it was that the sky turned apple green above the meadow’s grasses just before the storm. As a farm girl I had my share of chores; as a dedicated student I had my share of homework, and as a reader I had plenty of books to keep me entertained. But there was still time in between these things to just be—to not feel guilty in that just being.

So, ladies, here is my challenge for you: close that laptop. Turn off that TV. Set down the book or the magazine and curl up with a quilt, or go for a walk, or rock in a hammock beneath the old oak. Stretch out on the skirt of the Christmas tree and look up into the lights. In these moments of stillness, of not fretting about working and producing, you might actually be creating the space and rest your mind needs to bring out your greatest ideas.

 

Photo Credit: http://nessainwonderland.tumblr.com/page/5

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