Susan's Thursday morning note March 15, 2007
The Years by Virginia Wolff
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen – use of time
Pursuing Stillness. Silence in Nature. Nature’s stillness calming restless spirit. Healing nature.
Hi everybody! I’ve gotten one cup of coffee down, and the house is silent. I love this hour in my day, and wish I could discipline myself to get up this early even if it wasn’t Thursday when I work on this e-mail. I have spent the last two days reading about “the tranquility of mind.” What started my mind in this was an article in Time Magazine last week. The article was on a book entitled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. The editor in Time gave the following summary, “Allen admits that much of his basic recipe is common sense. Free your mind, and productivity will follow. Break down projects and goals into discrete, definable actions, and you won’t be bothered by all those loose threads pulling at your attention. First make decisions about what needs to get done, and then fashion a plan for doing it. If you’ve cataloged everything you have to do and all your long-term goals, you’re less likely to wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about whether you’ve forgotten something. When e-mails, phone calls and to-do lists are truly under control the real change begins. You will finally be able to use your mind to dream up great ideas and enjoy your life rather than just occupy it with all the things you’ve got to do.
I then remembered a passage in a novel by Virginia Wolf, The Years. Virginia Wolff is an author that I have a hard time reading, but am fascinated with. She writes with a “stream of consciousness” – where she gives the dialogue of her characters in a room, but also gives a dialogue of the thoughts of the characters. The books are hard to follow, because our thoughts are often opposite of what we are saying! One page that I had marked several years ago made an impression on me on the power of silence. A main character leaves a scene where she is upset by the conversation, her mind is racing, she is disturbed. She begins to walk with quick, heavy steps, upset. This is the following paraphrased scene, the power of finding silence to settle our minds, and put life into perspective.
The wind seemed to rise as she walked under the trees. The dead leaves crackled under foot; among them sprang up the pale spring flowers, the loveliest of the year – blue flowers and white flowers, trembling on cushions of green moss. Spring was sad always, she thought; it brought back memories (she is still in her melancholy “mood”) All passes, all changes, she thought, as she climbed up the little path between the trees. She broke off a twig; she picked a flower and put it to her lips. She was in the prime of life; she was vigorous. She strode on. (I like that sentence – she kept going! I can picture her determined, frustrated quick steps.) The ground rose sharply. She threw away her flower. The trees thinned as she strode higher and higher. (Now the change! The power of nature!) Suddenly she saw the sky between two striped tree trunks extraordinarily blue. She came out on the top. The wind ceased; the country spread wide all round her. Her body seemed to shrink; her eyes to widen. She threw herself on the ground, and looked over the billowing land that went rising and falling, away and away, until somewhere far off it reached the sea. Uncultivated, uninhabited, existing by itself, for itself, without towns or houses it looked from this height. Dark wedges of shadow, bright breadths of light lay side by side. Then, as she watched, light moved and dark moved; light and shadow went traveling over the hills and over the valleys. A deep murmur sang in her ears – the land itself, singing to itself, a chorus, alone. She lay there listening. (She stopped thinking about everything! She just listened to the quiet.) She was happy, completely. Time had ceased.
Do you have a location that you can go to where all you’re able to see is expanse? Where you have absolutely nothing in your sight that brings to mind your life? Where you can just listen to silence? On Tuesday night Camden and I took a long walk. At one point we realized how silent it was. Just the sound of our feet hitting the pavement. No birds, absolutely still. No natural light, just our shadows – intense shadows. He realized that the only light was the stars. We stopped, lay on our backs, and just stared up. Just as it’s so easy to drop to our knees to pray, yet it’s such a difficult drop to discipline ourselves in; so it is just as easy to fall on our backs and look straight up, yet it’s such a discipline to take the time – and it only takes one second. Just amazes me how we have a thousand tasks (above), yet we don’t do the simplest which give us the best perspective and the most power. We looked up at the stars and both became breathless, just taking in the beauty, the majesty, the silence. We were happy, completely. Time had ceased.
Let’s all discipline ourselves to take in the expanse – to realize how small and insignificant our details are. Let’s all LIVE – for we all share the most spectacular treasures – the power of prayer and the expanse of our universe. And for situations that are not insignificant, but which are consuming your energies and power to have peace of mind, then let your drop to your knees, or your time on your back staring at the stars, or the trees – let those moments give you a peace that passes understanding, so that you can handle your personal situations.
I have copies of the book Getting Things Done if you’d like me to save you one. Please let me know what you’d like me to look into carrying that you will miss having available in Aurora. You will never know how much your business means to me, my family, and our town. Thank you for your encouragement. Go take on your day!!! Susan
Woolf, Virginia. The Years (Annotated). Ed. Mark Hussey and Eleanor McNees. New York: Harvest Books. 2008.
Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York. Penguin Putnam. 2002.