A Lesson In Presence

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(Lose the Net by Rasmus Faber Courtesy of Epidemic Music)

It continually amazes me that good questions lead us so naturally to good answers, and that beautiful questions lead to even better answers! Each time we open ourselves to the things we don’t know, we’ve opened the doors to discovery and wonder and greater understanding.

I’m Scott Lennox and you’re listening to The Beautiful Question, a consideration of things that matter every day.

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For most of us, the holidays are times of joy and wonder and the sharing of gifts and the affection behind the gifts. Yet, there is no question that the holidays can also bring untold pressures with them.

Join me this week as we look back at an updated edition of an earlier podcast that might offer ways of letting some of those pressures go as we choose to keep ourselves in the present. Stay with me.

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A few years ago, while sitting in the hustle and noise of a local coffee shop, I had a quiet experience that changed me from the inside out. When I reflected on it later, I noticed that the shift was a lasting one that continued to stay with me.

 photo by: wirestock


What quieted me so sublimely was nothing more (and surely nothing less) that an elegant flight of egrets flying southward across a line of brooding clouds miles beyond the window where I was sitting. A few minutes after I watched them, a poem wrote itself in my mind, offering itself to me in English and then in Spanish.

Here’s that poem.

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Watching Egrets

A flight of birds,
egrets, whiter than ice,
crossing a line of dark clouds.
Nothing more,
but certainly nothing less.
A single glance, and I am lifted up.
Another time,
I would have looked for some grand meaning,
a hidden design.
Today… seeing them is enough.

And more musically in Spanish…

Un vuelo de los aves,
garzas, más blanco que el hielo,
cruze de una línea de nubes oscuras.
Nada más,
pero sin duda, nada menos.
Una sola mirada, y sea elevado.
Otro tiempo,
me abría buscando algún sentido grande,
un diseño escondido.
Hoy… verlos es suficiente.

(Watching Egrets is from a collection of my unpublished poems. The translation into Spanish is my own.)

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When I think of watching the egrets flying in the distance that day, I remember having the awareness that while I’d been intently watching them, something in me shifted just slighty. For that moment, I’d been fully present. There was nothing else on my mind. There was nothing else pressing on me. All sense of urgency had vanished.

I was present with the birds. I was present with the clouds. And I was quietly and happily present with myself.

Much of that day had been spent sitting at my usual table in the corner of a coffee shop as the noise and commotion and boisterous conversations swirled around me. As was my habit in those days, I read for a while, worked on one of my drawings, and occasionally wrote in my journal.

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Late in the afternoon, while looking out through one of the shop’s west-facing windows, I noticed a dark band of brooding clouds that had built up above the horizon and I wondered about the weather. At just that moment, perhaps a mile away and directly between where I sat and the band of clouds, a line of eight or nine egrets flew slowly toward the south in the direction of the river that flows through town.

The moment wasn’t what you might describe as breath-taking. Instead, it was a quietly engaging moment that was complete within itself. Nothing else was needed. At the sight of those elegant birds flying so effortlessly one behind the other, I felt connected and lifted and inspired.

I felt calm and still inside.

I felt unusually peaceful.

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When the last of the birds was out of sight, I opened my journal and began to write, first in English and then in Spanish, Watching Egrets, the poem I just shared with you. As I reread it, I realized that I had become so caught up in watching the birds that my conscious mind had stopped thinking, something I would have sworn to you was impossible for me.

In place of thinking, a feeling of complete peace washed over me and through me. Nothing had changed in the coffee shop, yet everything around me seemed quieter and less chaotic. I knew that the conversations and activity hadn’t changed at all, but my reactive mind was no longer resisting or pushing against the noise or the movement or the people.

Like the egrets flying past the distant clouds, the noise and the bustling activity of the coffee shop flowed past me without touching me, leaving me calm and undisturbed.

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That evening, and for several days afterward, I found myself wanting to return to that inner silence. It would be a while before I established the regular practice of it, but that one moment of deep stillness was enough to invite a lasting hunger for more, a hunger that would eventually be satisfied.

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In earlier newsletters and podcasts, I’ve written and spoken about stillness several times. For numerous reasons, I’ll continue to do so. Stillness matters that much.

One of the reasons is that in our overly-busy, productivity-based, work-’til-you-drop culture, it can be so easy to burn out. Yet reaching stillness is far easier to experience than most people think.

Another reason is that the benefits of stillness are so profound and far-reaching. Inner stillness affects every part of us for the better and in the most healthy ways.

An increasing body of medical research shows that anxiety, worry, stress, and the pressures of our endless “doing” are known to cause the release of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. It’s also known that the overproduction of cortisol can lead to suppressed immunity, hypertension, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and numerous other health risks.

Research also shows that reducing cortisol levels can help us regain balance and improve overall health. When we intentionally engage in stillness, we help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the part of us that helps us “rest and digest,” the part that helps us heal physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Each moment we allow true stillness, we open the door for clarity to arise, bringing with it our innate wisdom, both of which happen naturally when we take our stress-related obstacles out of the way.

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With the holidays at hand, we’ll have an endless array of opportunities to practice. To help with that practice, I offer one simple suggestion.

Several times during each day for the next two weeks, it might be interesting to allow yourself to become still for long enough to become aware of some small detail in your surroundings, Whether it’s close to you or at a distance is of little consequence.

Simply allow yourself to mentally “lean into” that detail. Then, as you continue being aware of it, with no force at all and without really trying, notice any shift that takes place in you while you’re observing whatever it is that you’ve chosen to be your focus.

As your thoughts arise—as they probably will—allow them to drift through your awareness while you quietly bring yourself back to witnessing the detail without mentally narrating or editing.

In time, the stillness you’re seeking will deepen and lengthen, and even though you may not be consciously aware of it in the moment, you’ll be helping orchestrate your own wellness.

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So, to help you with all of this, and to help you have a much better time in the process, here are this week’s Beautiful Questions.

One: Are you finally ready to give yourself a meaningful and relaxing break from the unnecessary holiday pressures you’ve been experiencing?

Two: When and where will you allow yourself to become still enough inside to drop the pressures you’ve been facing or carrying?

Three: When and for how long are you willing to suspend your busyness so that you may experience the relief and peace you deserve?

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I’m looking forward to hearing about your response to this week’s offering, and to your response to the Beautiful Questions. You deserve to give the gifts of stillness and clarity and peace to yourself.

As I say each time,
My Light with Your Light!

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I’m happy we can engage this way as we consider things that matter and what to do about them. If nothing else, I hope you feel inspired to look more deeply at ways of caring for yourself.

You can be further inspired by visiting my friends at Kosmos Journal. That’s K O S M O S Journal. Their mission is to inform, inspire, and engage global transformation in harmony with all life. You can easily find them online at Kosmos Journal dot O R G.

And at thebeautifulquestion.com, you can read the illustrated transcript of each podcast as you listen. We’ve also included an archive of all previous podcasts, including guided relaxation audios that can help you practice letting go on a daily basis.

If you find these podcasts useful, I encourage you to share them and tell others about them. That’s a great way of helping me get a voice of calm and collaboration and balance and encouragement out into the world. It’s a great way of spreading peace.

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I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.

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The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced, and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.

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