- Vivek Murthy and Alice Chen
Better Together - Finding Stillness Within Chaos
This past week was a particularly intense one. As with many others, we have both found ourselves lurching from one breaking news story to the next while juggling ever-shifting and increasing work priorities. Our young children have doubtlessly picked up on mama and papa’s general state of distraction and anxiety, with a resulting increased need for attention and reassurance. Sleep has been in shorter supply than usual. The combination of it all has made us less patient and more irritable.
In times of stress, we often find ourselves in a state of fight or flight. We feel we need to be doing something even when it’s entirely not clear what. Often what gets edged out are the personal relationships that are so central to our ability to cope with challenges. We know we need to lean on people we love, but it can feel like yet one more thing we have to do. It turns out that it is precisely in these times that we most need to create moments of pause where we can make space for ourselves and find our grounding in stillness and solitude. It may seem counterintuitive, but cultivating a connection with ourselves is one of the most powerful things we can do to be able to connect with others. Finding Moments of Pause A quote from Victor Frankl’s beloved book, Man’s Search For Meaning”, reminds us of an opportunity: “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
How do we create a space that allows us to respond to others with love and compassion? While it can be life-altering for many people to attend weeks-long retreats, and a day away can recharge you for days, we have found that there is power even in small moments of pause. When we pause for a few moments to take a few deep breaths, feel the breeze on our face, observe the trees and plants around us, or enjoy a cool glass of water, we can begin to find that space from which to spot love, silver linings, and use our extraordinary human gift of empathy. Taking Pause A few days ago, we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, a traditional East Asian holiday where people gather with their families to eat mooncakes, sip tea, recite poetry, and gaze at the full harvest moon. Often people will fall silent for a few moments, soaking up the moonlight, lost in their own thoughts of all who may be gazing at the same moment at that same moon.
Friends, we write today inviting you to join us in finding moments of stillness each day - even if only for 5 minutes. Step away from your digital devices, find a window (or better yet, step outside), and breathe. Look for something that brings you joy. It can be the sun shining through the trees, the dew of the morning grass, or a flock of birds going about their day. Here are 3 resources to help you take pause, to sit in silence, to find wonder in solitude.
Meditate. Jack Kornfield’s Lovingkindness Meditation
Listen. On Being with Gordon Hempton: The Sound of Silence
Observe. Nature’s poetry: Cloud Appreciation Society
Moments of chaos remind us to find our grounding. Friends, as we begin this new week, may we find moments of pause each day and remember that we’re in this together. With love, Vivek and Alice If you'd like to share these ideas with loved ones, please forward this email and have them sign up subscribe here.