05/01/2015 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Power Down to See Things in a Different Light

The power went out in my neighborhood recently. It happened in the middle of the night, and what seemed like a sudden silence in my home jolted me awake.

Nothing was terribly wrong. The outage lasted less than an hour. But its effect got me thinking.

Noises that I don't usually think of as noisy -- the steady whir of a ceiling fan, the low hum of electric lighting and appliances -- were gone. The house was quieter than quiet, darker than dark.

The stillness was unsettling at first. I felt acutely aware of my dependence on something that had proved, for the moment, undependable. I had a strange urge to get out of bed, for no reason other than to feel the floor beneath my feet. I considered lighting a candle so I could see the room in shadow, to reassure myself that everything was where it needed to be.

Instead I just lay there, listening to nothing.

Little by little, over seconds that seemed somehow to stretch longer than seconds, reassuring sounds emerged from the silence. My own breathing - the inhale, the exhale. My heartbeat. Thump. Thump.

It was as if I was plugging into myself, a more fundamental power source. It was, well, empowering.

I'd had a particularly busy week, constantly chasing the next appointment on my calendar, the next task on my to-do list.

Often a hectic schedule is invigorating to me. I like the feeling that comes with doing what I've decided to do, pursuing goals, solving problems and overcoming obstacles, one by one. But this particular week hadn't felt productive -- just busy. Was I really going anywhere? Or was I just running in circles?

During the day, I had avoided such questions, not wanting to slow down or lose a step. But in the unscheduled quiet of this powerless night, I let my thoughts wander - following them, not leading or pushing toward predetermined expectations.

I won't exaggerate and tell you that answers to all of the questions I had struggled with came to me magically when the electricity went out. I will say that the ideas that did come arrived with a clarity and calm that had eluded me until I was forced to power down, so to speak.

The experience reminded me to take time each day for stillness and unpressured contemplation. I urge you to do the same - through prayer, meditation, yoga or whatever works for you to quiet your anxieties and reconnect you with yourself.

When life feels overwhelming and there's more to do than will ever get done, it can seem like an unaffordable luxury to pause, breathe deeply and just be. But I believe it's in those moments that you can reclaim your power.

Try it. You might start to see things in a different light.


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