Learning Calm from a Book?

I stopped at the bookstore last night. I didn’t intend to stop there when I headed to the city to visit a specialty store for much needed supplies; it just so happened the parking lot of the bookstore was right across the intersection from the exit of my specialty store. And so I made the stop.

I have been curious to see what the experts have to say about my quest for calm and while I enjoy electronic books and magazines, nothing beats the look, feel and smell of a book in my hands. Of course, for me, the best part of seeing the book in person is to thumb through the whole book and not just the excerpts and freebies you get shopping online.

The bookstore has an entire section of “self-help” books penned by various authors of varying degrees of knowledge and experience. The range of subjects that fit “self-help” was quite diverse. In fact, the section was so diverse and so filled with options I was overwhelmed.

I weeded my search down to books that dealt with subjects of reducing anxiety and relaxing. Even then, the choices were considerable. I thumbed through a few selections and found that many of them were filled with lists of how to be less anxious, steps to begin relaxing, exercises to reduce anxiety, etc. The more I looked the more anxious and less relaxed I got.

I could see myself getting one of these books with these plans, starting it and then berating myself for not following the plan just so. I could also see myself questioning whether I was doing it right. I was getting anxious about how to live up to the expectations and plans of some author I hadn’t met in order to figure out how I could learn to relax and hopefully learn to be calm.

And then it dawned on me; you can’t learn calm from a book. You actually can’t learn how to be calm from anyone other than you. All of these books, these authors, these experts were simply talking about generalized plans and ideas. None of these books could be anything more than general ideas and inspirations for my own journey to calm.

We are all unique individuals, like snowflakes, none of us are exactly the same. There is no way a book is going to teach any of us exactly how to address our own personal thoughts, feelings and responses to the world around us. A book can give you an idea, but you must learn on your own journey what calm is for you.

I know you are wondering whether I bought a book. Yes, I did buy a book, but it wasn’t one of those “self-help” books with a plan. I bought a philosophical book that didn’t offer any steps, any day by day exercises, etc. In fact, I’m not sure it will contain anything remotely relevant to learning how to be calm. And I am at peace with that.

Does a Church Community Fit with Calm?

At one time I was an active member of a church community and thought it was the best way to get a sense of balance in my life. Throughout that time, I never really felt that I found that calm, that sense of being able to turn it off. If anything, that church community became another area of responsibility and it held no stillness or rest for me.

Throughout the past few months, my husband and I have been talking about returning to regular church attendance. He is transplanted and hasn’t found a solid base of relationships to thrive in. Having grown up in a family centered in the church, he feels a pull and I can’t blame him for that.

I’m a recluse at times, perfectly happy to withdraw from the societal responsibilities of active friendships and relationships. I’ve had some fairly negative relationships in my life; relationships that have been draining both financially and emotionally. It seems that my very nature is to give of myself to everyone around me until I have no recourse for rest having been saddled with these responsibilities that I let invade my life.

Today we attended the church that I was once an active part of. It was nice to see the old faces, to feel the belonging and the feeling of community. My husband wants to go back and I understand his pull. This I will try for him.

Today was one day, less than two hours. At the heart of most churches is a community and need to engage the members for the mission of the church and the good that the church hopes to do. Will I be drawn back into the community of the church and will it deter me from my quest for rest and calm? Will I be able to balance the church community with learning to turn off and rest?

Deciding the Best Course

In acknowledgement of the need to be calm and to learn to turn off, I took a step back to figure out if a commitment to something new such as this blog is truly in step with my desire. Powerless I started, and through self reflection determined that bottling up the thoughts and inner musings of this journey is counterproductive in learning to be calm. How does one remain calm when holding on to things internally, mulling them over, chewing and digesting them over and over? In order to let go, often, things need to be let out first.

Facing that truth, I stared down the fact that I must learn to let things out. In my world, that means not only sharing the good news but complaining about the bad in all of the ugliness that it is. And therein lies the dilemma of moving forward.

In the world I grew up in, we were taught that complaining is not a feature people most admire. Complaining was whining and it just wasn’t allowed. We learned early to hold things in and keep from bothering others with the little things. Only the older adults were allowed to complain about anything and that was only among themselves and their friends. I haven’t quite hit the age, or feel like I have hit the age, where I’m allowed to complain so just how to let it out?

I thought and thought about this and took some time figuring out the next step. (Okay, almost a month.) I’m a thinker, an analyzer, by nature. I’m also a perfectionist; which means that I must always express myself in just the “right way” and in the the correct, scheduled and planned manner most acceptable to my inner critic.

All of that thought and agonizing led me to this truth; nothing starts until you start it and nothing in this life will ever be perfect for the imperfect humans that we are. Agonizing and editing myself only takes me further from the journey to calm. There is power in calm, but I think there is a whole lot of work and imperfect attempts to get it that lead up to that calm.

It is time to start the work. It won’t be perfect. I won’t beat myself up if I go days without a visit or another musing. I won’t delete all my former posts and start over. I will take what comes, good and bad and work for the calm.

There is Power in Calm

I’m sure I’m like everyone else out there.  There’s so much I think about and so much I want to say; I’m just never sure how to say it.  Or, for that matter, if I should say it.

I’m always on.  I’m always thinking, always being responsible.  And it’s very tiring.  So many people who know me would love to see me able to turn it off and learn to relax.

There is accomplishment in multi-tasking.  Things get done and the responsible have managed to pick up the slack for the rest of the world.  And so it continues day after day.

But in that hustle and bustle, that never ending cycle of doing,  I believe the responsible are yearning to stop and turn it off.  I feel it.

There is power in turning off and learning to rest.  There is power in learning to ignore the hustle and bustle and unending pull of responsibility.  Powerless; I don’t know where to start.

My journey begins here with acknowledging a desire to turn if off.   So begins the search for stillness.  There is power in calm.

There is power in calm.

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