Be Still and Create

clay-2556725_1920

“In an age of movement, nothing is more critical than stillness. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.”

Pico Iyer in The Art of Stillness


I sit on my couch, coffee beside me, mindlessly playing a game on my iPhone. This has never been a problem for me before, but it is now.  I was the one that never succumbed to this kind of mindless drivel. I would create through writing, decorating, or planning innovative public health programs.  Now, even when I have time I struggle to focus; struggle to keep any sort of disciplined schedule.  As I play the game, my mind wanders. It wanders to my mom, a recent widow; to one of my children who is going through a crisis; and then on to other more mundane worries. They all have one thing in common: they are out of my control. What is in my control is pressing five red squares linked together. This will create a rocket, and with that little rocket, I will win this game and claim victory over a machine. And then I will do it again, and again, and again.  Until I don’t win, and I restlessly realize that I have just spent an unthinkable amount of time on a phone game.

In The Art of Stillness, author Pico Iyer talks about how many people in Silicon Valley try to observe an internet Sabbath. People take a 24 to 48 hour break from their online jobs creating high tech instruments and content so they can relax and reboot. Employees take this time so that they are at maximum creativity when they return. They rest so they can create programs that keep us, their ever-willing customers, online all the time. It is a profound irony that someone somewhere may have taken an internet Sabbath and then created a game that I now sit and play for hours. I squander my moments of stillness and with it, my ability to create.

I have run out of lives on my game, and so I wait. I wait and I think about what it means to be still; what it means to renew my mind and soul so that I will pay attention; so that I will have both the desire and the will to create.


I live in a city that goes to bed late and gets up in the early morning hours. My first activity as I leave my apartment is to walk 15 minutes to the subway. Noise is immediate and continuous. It’s in the train engine roaring, in people having conversations, in the homeless population at Central Square, sometimes insulting each other and other times laughing, but always loud. I travel three stops to my office in downtown Boston, the busiest section of the city. The pace and demands are relentless, wordlessly declaring that being still is an absurd impossibility. And this creeps into my subconscious mind, so that even when I have time, I have bought into the lie that being still is impossible.

Yet all around, I see evidence of how being still creates life. The small purple flowers of crocuses have just emerged from a still earth.  The brown branches of long dormant forsythia have given birth to brilliant yellow flowers.  Budding trees and bushes join this holy movement and add their pops of color against a grey April sky and cold sterile buildings.  After months of stillness, spring bursts forth like an artist who has taken a sabbatical and moves on to create her greatest work of art.

It is the work of a God whose infinite creativity spoke a world into being, who marked off the dimensions of the earth’s foundations as morning stars sang.

“Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
Who set its measurements—if you know—
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”*

Between marking off the measurements of the earth’s foundations and laying its cornerstone, was God still? Did he create, and then sit in stillness, communing with members of the Trinity, only to go back days, months, and years later and create more? Has stillness always been a part of creation?

Be still, and breathe.

Be still, and create.

Be still, and bring life.

Be still, and know God.


The lives on the game have refreshed. I pause a minute and realize that what I long for, this game cannot give. Only taking a time to be still will equip me to write the words I long to write, to create the programs I long to create.  I reluctantly shut off my phone, the hardest step in the process of disengaging from what has become my adult pacifier. Outside the city is still. Inside, I sit in stillness, my own communion with the holy Trinity. This moment is perhaps the most creative thing I will do today, but it is a start and it is enough.


*Job 38: 4-7 NET

Purchase Between Worlds or Worlds Apart here for $15.00/each or 2 for $25!

5 thoughts on “Be Still and Create

  1. I have Fibromyalgia, which causes what I call “foggy brain syndrome” (and other people call Fibro Fog). Sometimes playing games where I have to concentrate helps this. But I think we live in a world that wants us distracted. It’s hard to just sit; we’re used to running around, doing “good” things. Being still is scary, because then it’s just you, your brain, and the Lord. Besides, how many of us grew up with the saying, “Idle hands make the Devil’s work?”

    I’ve considered this quite a bit, and I keep thinking. Sometimes our own emotions are too busy to let us create. We need to deal with the emotions and give ourselves the room for creativity. There was no way I could write last summer after I lost my three week old grandson and my 91 year old father three days apart, then my cousin three weeks later. To say nothing of my aunt who had a stroke! My mind, emotions, and body were just drained. When we weren’t on the road dealing with everything, I spent a lot of time playing mindless games, reading a book, sitting on the deck and soaking up the sun, listening to the ocean a block away. I gave myself permission to take the time away from being creative to heal. I got a great tan, but very few words written. Things calmed down in September and I have since been extremely creative, finishing two novels, starting another, and getting notes for still another. I needed that break.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh wow – I am really thankful for this comment. I feel like you have described me in your last five sentences. Thank you for commenting. It’s so helpful.

      Like

  2. Be still and create when you can, yes! I’ve been closely watching my reflexes to distraction lately and have found that I’m most ‘tempted’ to do follow these essentially non-nourishing responses when I’m tired. I’m trying to figure out what has short-circuited the proper reaction of going out for a stroll for some fresh air, or, alternately, closing my eyes for forty winks?

    Liked by 1 person

Add to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s