Choosing Stillness: A Worthwhile Struggle

By Angie Nasrallah

June 2019
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The intellect cannot be still unless the body is still also:  and the wall between them cannot be demolished without stillness and prayer.
— From St. Mark the Ascetic, “No Righteousness by Works,” p. 128.

Its June!  

That space on the calendar which stretches through Lent and Pascha, to the end of school, has passed.  If you are like me, this space has been stuffed full, like a teenager at an all-you-can-eat food bar. I’m not complaining because I know these family days are finite.   But, there is an imbalance that happens when you’re running from pillar to post, checking boxes, showing up with snacks at games, hosting Pascha parties, attending end of year concerts and the like. Its all so exciting.  But, I get drained.

Somewhere around the second week of May I begin to long for summer.  I get snappy with people around here and I go into “productivity-mom-mode” where its all about doing and checking boxes, studying for finals, showing up with teacher gifts and “finishing strong!”  Like the persistent drip of a slowly leaking faucet, this life becomes annoying and harsh.

Thankfully, one afternoon in a hammock beside a lake on a hot day, relief came.  The faucet stopped dripping and I left the all-you-can-eat buffet.

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I was reading The Wilderness Journal by Angela Doll Carlson.  On day 120, the author remarks on this passage by St. Mark the Ascetic:

The intellect cannot be still unless the body is still also:  and the wall between them cannot be demolished without stillness and prayer.
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Stillness.  Quiet. Prayer.  

I took a breath and gazed around at the rolling hills, the geese and the gentle quiet of the lake.  This was restorative indeed.

I know these are ever important practices if I am to be spiritually balanced.  Yet, I continue to busy myself with talking and doing. It is a daily struggle. Perhaps God used the hammock and the words of St. Mark to show me that it is possible, even in these busy days, to grasp small pieces of this life.  I will have to be intentional about making space for mental and physical calmness. There are too many meals to cook, baskets of laundry to wash and meetings to attend for it to just happen.

Trading the food bar for the hammock is good.  I wanted to share this with you, encouraging you to take time for stillness and quiet, even if just for a short, slow walk alone in the woods.  If you have a hammock or a lawn chair, get in it with a book and just soak in the inactivity. Breathe, pray and choose to be still.

Angie NasrallahComment