“The Art Of” Shutting Up: How shutting up allows us to live in the beauty of human nature

By: Alexander Colby

As more and more work seems to be piling up and the stress of assignments becomes almost unbearable at times, we take notice that our bodies are in communication with us. Despite that, we push through and make it to the next task, then the next … and so on. Our bodies and our souls are so delicately formed and made to do great work, but if we do not take the steps to care for ourselves, we might as well be throwing gasoline onto a fire. Each of us is loved “no less than fully” and we are very works of art as we hold different identities and personalities, so listen to me, beloved: shut up. 

Waltonian | The Waltonian Source: Pixabay/Beetle

“God never said we shall not be tempested, tried, or travailed; no. But God did say we shall not be overcome.” These words (a paraphrase of Julian of Norwich) bring both comfort and frustration when we become faced with a barrier. It sometimes feels like that is the end of it all, but then we move on and laugh it off. The reality of it is that we were trying to handle something without having the energy or skills to do so and it made the challenge feel overwhelming. The simple solution to this? Rest and be still. We are not made to constantly just barely make it or even to have something to do every day. Every major religion acknowledges this in some way by making rest a holy thing. We are made to have to sit back every so often and be silent and reflect on what it is that is causing us to feel unfulfilled in our duty to embrace our vocation – that to which we are called in life. 

If you are anything like me, this is frightening. Being told to stop and just let nothing happen is disturbing and even disruptive to the way of life we’ve become comfortable with. So here is where the art comes in – being meditative and mindful is truly an art form. It takes work to be intentional about stepping out of the bustle of life and examining ourselves and what parts of ourselves need extra attention or even to be rebuilt. It is not a bad thing to take a few minutes, hours or even days to step aside and focus on yourself. You have been made in the image of a loving God and you are nothing but good and you deserve the chance to sit with this. 

So here is where we start: do the little things. Set clear boundaries for yourself to avoid overworking your mind, spend time with a book you love, watch a movie that can just mindlessly pass a few hours, spend time in prayer or contemplation, or whatever may work for you to acknowledge that you are worthy of rest and being free from the things of this world that break us down and make us feel like we are nothing but workers for a system that will never grant us rest. There is an ancient practice of sitting still in silence and simply breathing. It is both a form of prayer for the religious and a practice rooted in psychology that helps to override the fight or flight response of the body and recenter our minds into a state of tranquility. This is so much easier to say than to do, I know, but begin with small steps or moments where you are still and silent. Once that is able to be done well, build on that and take longer periods of time to rest and restore. 

The world we live in expects us to be going constantly, but we must rest. Beloved, you are a work of art – delicately pieced together into a masterpiece. So do yourself a favor, sit back and shut up! 

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