STOP, Be Still and Know

What has happened to that wonderful feeling of just stopping, sitting still, being quiet and finding that special inner place of peace and security. Does it have to be discarded forever? Or can we somehow recapture the joy and sense of well-being that so often used to fill our times of “being still”?
I’m an artist. I love painting flowers in detail, and painting flowers in this way means that I have to be still and look carefully, and almost myopically at my subject. As I have done so, over the years I have learned such a lot about the world around me. For instance, did you know that if you bring some plants into a warm room you can actually hear them move? Honestly! Hyacinths are the easiest flowers to ‘hear’: they make a tiny creaking sound as the petals and leaves rub against one another. Fascinating. Or, have you ever taken the time to notice the many and varied leaf shapes that there are? Pansy leaves are vastly different to rose leaves, and rose leaves – in their turn – are totally different to those of the clematis. And yet every leaf has a very definite purpose, and that purpose is to receive food and nutrients and pass them onto the parent plant.
And what about fruit! Has it ever occurred to you that, when you cut open a fruit – let’s say an apple – you are the first person in the whole universe to see the inside of that particular apple! Oh, I know that apples are very much alike, but they are each unique in some way. And when you have eaten your apple, then you are, not only the first person in the universe to see the inside of that apply, but also the one and only person who will ever see the inside of that particular apple. Oh, that’s being a bit silly, you might say – BUT – isn’t also slightly magical? Try it yourself and see!
But if your life is so very noisy and busy, then you will never have those magical moments of hearing a plant grow, nor of seeing something that no one else has ever seen before! What a lot you are missing!
May I suggest that you try sitting in the garden (or the local park if you haven’t a garden) and simply do nothing but be still and watch and listen. Do it for just one half-hour every week, and see what new things you will discover. You will hear birds singing that you never realised lived in your garden. You may even see a hedgehog, a butterfly or watch a bee buzzing from flower to flower. Several years ago I found I couldn’t sleep, so slipped out into the garden at about 3 am with a cup of tea. As I sat on my usual seat I watched the bats flying back to their roosts, then a hedgehog walked right up close to my feet on its ramble through the garden. And then – suddenly from a tree at the bottom of the garden – I heard a nightingale sing!! And he sang for a good 10 minutes! All those beautiful notes warbling, rising and falling almost as if he was singing just for me! And as there was no-one else there, I believe he really was. A gift from God at 3 am in the morning!
Perhaps it’s impossible for you to get out and listen to the sounds of nature. Perhaps you live where there is very little opportunity to watch the sunrise or listen to the birds. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from a time of “being still”. Where-ever you happen to be, and whatever you happen to be doing, surely there is some little opportunity in your life to simply STOP, and give yourself the immense pleasure of just “being still”. Determine to do so. Make a promise to yourself that you will make time – for your health’s sake – to “be still”.
But how? you might say. Sit comfortably in a safe place by yourself. Quieten your inner being and begin to be conscious of your heart beating. Feel your pulse. Go throughout your body, slowly becoming aware of your feet, your hands, your head. You will be surprised at how little you know your own body; you have been so busy that you haven’t had a moment to sense the life coursing round your frame. Be very aware that you are really and truly ALIVE, and be grateful for that fact.
The Bible says: “Be still and know that I am God….”, and that’s part of this “being still”. But, if you aren’t someone who ‘knows’ God, then just think of “Being still and knowing……..”, and begin to see what you can learn and get to ‘know’ about yourself and the world around you. Don’t waste the years of your life that are left to you in dashing around in a frenzy. Be kind to yourself, and STOP, BE STILL and learn to KNOW all the beautiful things that surround you.

Mavis Gibbs is a watercolour painter and miniaturist, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.