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Finding Stillness Within Chaos

This photo of a courtyard in the 800-year-old Liuyuan Garden in Suzhou, China is both true and untrue.

It is, in fact, a beautiful, tranquil space that reflects the best of Chinese design. Yet I also had to wait a considerable time for the boisterous human visitors to clear before this peaceful photograph was possible.

My practice while in China was to find stillness within chaos. The noise, crowds, confusion, and pollution were pervasive and confounded my usual way of being. Living on a quiet island, I have honed an ability to be present for whatever is present. But in China, the volume of things presenting themselves was more than I could take.

I learned to turn within. Rather than leave all sense doors open, I watched my body. Rather than join the frantic pace of street life, I moved slowly. Rather than grab for more, I felt my internal sufficiency.

As contemplative caregivers, how do we direct our attention wisely? We hone openness, but must we also learn to close the door? We value responsiveness, but must we also learn to sit peacefully in the chaos with no external signs of action?

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