A Quarterly Column
by Bret S. Beall
Seasoned. Adj. 1: flavorful, zesty,
interesting; 2: cured, tempered; 3: improved or enhanced
via experience; 4: colloq: of or pertaining to the
Living. Noun. Maintaining life in a particular
manner or style; vitality.
Honk If You Love Silence!
The dichotomy and irony of that title (a fictitious bumper sticker) just about summarizes everything I’ve heard over the years about “being still,” this quarter’s theme. As we enter my favorite season, autumn, which is always full of hustle and bustle
in my world, I thought I’d share some of my (hopefully) entertaining anecdotes about “being still,” and its logical corollary, “listening.”
The title of this column derives from an interesting experience I had driving to a client early one recent autumn morning. It was cool and brisk, and I was feeling great. I had just pulled the Bretmobile away from the curb in front of Casa Beall, drove
to the nearby intersection, and turned left. Another car was coming toward me on the admittedly narrow residential street. I kept to my side of the street, but as the other car approached, it was clear that s/he was taking his/her half of the street right out of the
middle! S/he finally moved to his/her side, but as we passed, s/he laid on the horn. I have visceral reactions to honking, and other noise; I don’t like other people’s sounds (or smells or anything) imposed on me. I was focusing on maneuvering my car, but s/he felt the
need to express anger, disrupting my focus and my peace. I felt sad for him/her, but I still broke out laughing. The silence of the morning was shattered by someone so immature that s/he tried to shift responsibility to me. Instead of sharing responsibility for getting
along on the street, this individual decided to toss all blame onto me and my [very tiny] car for causing him/her inconvenience (ie, daring to drive on the same street!). Imagine how much happier that individual would be if s/he had just shrugged and moved on, allowing the
neighborhood to remain in morning silence.
Consider the “sound of silence.” I remember an early morning phone call from a friend shortly after I had moved into the current Casa Beall. He said, “I didn’t know you had pet birds.” I didn’t (and still don’t). He could hear birds, crickets and
other wildlife outside making their presence known through the open autumn window. I realized what a wonderful home I had. Just remaining still, letting ideas flow while allowing nature’s symphony to pour over me, is so relaxing. Who says you can’t commune with the natural
world while living in a city like Chicago? Being still allows one to see the forest for the trees (not to mention a variety of other natural elements).
My morning shower is usually silent, with just the patter of running water. As many people know, that’s often when ideas flow, and I find that is my case (my morning shower sets the tone for my entire day!). If your mind is cluttered when showering,
inspiration won’t come, but just enjoying the warm water (so nice in the autumn) will allow creativity to flow (and will allow you to listen to any Divine inspiration). I’m not [necessarily] talking about creating great literature or designing magnificent art while
showering. I’m talking about solutions to everyday problems. Just being still in the shower and listening to the Universe can resolve so many amazing situations ... this is my kind of multitasking!
Argh! Multitasking is the bane of my existence. I’m incredibly good at it, and since my autumn season is always ultra busy, multitasking is the ONLY way I can get everything done. Nevertheless, I do this with the understanding that I am paying a price
(and so is anyone else who is multitasking). That price is increased stress and decreased memory (I won’t bore you with the biochemistry that causes this correlation). As someone who is usually “open” to creative flow and Divine insight, I find multitasking totally cuts off
that flow and insight. Thankfully, if we are mindful that this is happening (and being mindful is one of my mantras), we can invoke a very simple solution: Be Still!
If you are aware of what is happening, detach yourself from the situation, and be still. Breathe deeply, and enjoy the scent of the autumnal air (wet leaves, nearby baking or similar aromas). Listen (to the chirping of birds or the honking of geese, or
the chatter of children returning to school). Take a walk (to see the green of nature change to gold, orange, red and purple, or to witness the personalities of your neighbors as they decorate their homes). Meditate (are you aware that research has shown that chanting “om”
will actually lower blood pressure?). Pet your pets (or brush them, as the autumn is often shedding time); there’s nothing like the unconditional love of a pet while you are being still and focusing on him/her to enhance your health (did you know that purring assists cats in
healing as well as expressing pleasure, so let them assist you in healing). As temperatures cool down in the autumn, pets also like that little bit of extra warmth we can deliver.
When I’m not listening to the purring of my two cats, I’m often listening to music (usually upbeat pop), allowing it to fill the background. What if I let the background fill with ideas and creativity? Sometimes I have the TV turned on as background.
Is my life really better for having the television on? Sometimes I just sit in silence and read, either trade journals or lifestyle magazines or natural history books or science fiction novels. It’s amazing how my mind reacts to the words on the page when the intrusion of
TV images and pounding pop beats doesn’t interfere; in truth, these sights and sounds can be as intrusive and disruptive as honking car horns. In silence, the words act like catalysts for creativity, and my mind starts generating ideas. They may be ideas for new décor
schemes, for new research/writing projects, for delicious recipes or spectacular vacations. I’m rarely disappointed; give it a try!
I remember one horrendous client gig. I was doing some organizational computer work for them, and they were so messed up that the job became one tedious day after another. I was really annoyed that I wasn’t permitted to listen to tunes while working (we
parted ways fairly soon, as I did not want them as a client). But, in the meantime, I found, as I was doing this tedium, my mind reacted in strange ways. I was being forced to be still, and I was feeling a bit put-out. I started getting flashes of “better times.” I
started getting all of these wonderful images of past happy times. I relived vacations with friends, glorious discoveries, enlightened conversations and rewarding recognition. I found the opportunity during this forced stillness to be grateful for the entire duration of my
wonderful life. We can never be “too” grateful, and this was a terrific reminder!
I’ve often traveled during the autumn (I’m off to Indianapolis, Louisville and Toronto this autumn), and have taken many opportunities to be still. I try to get away from the hustle-bustle of congested areas and away from those darned honking horns. I
have usually traveled alone, and have enjoyed wandering among the redwoods, admiring the big-leaf maples changing to bright yellow against the brick red bark. I have wandered along black sand beaches, enjoying the ocean spray and searching for multicolored anemones and other
sea life in tidal pools. Sometimes I travel with a friend, and the autumn is a terrific time to explore wineries around the country, to drive down rural roads appreciating the bounty of the harvest at farm stands as autumn leaves fall. Sometimes we’ve wandered the still
galleries of museums, where we basked in the creativity of others and felt inspired. Take advantage of the shoulder season to travel and explore, even if it is in your own city or region. A change of scenery works wonders, especially if you incorporate stillness.
Recently I was reminded of the necessity of being still. When driving, I usually listen to tunes on the radio. A Friday not-too-long-ago was no different, as I was driving home about 7pm from a client appointment. The tunes were playing, and I was
bopping, eager to “kill time” before I got home, because it was a cold, dark, rainy evening. Over the tunes I heard a “growling” in the Bretmobile. I turned off the tunes and monitored the growling, thinking, “Just get home! Just get home!” Well, as I drove on Sheridan (a
major thoroughfare that was quite busy with drivers eager to get home themselves) through residential Wilmette, approaching Evanston, I rounded a curve near the Baha’i Temple in silence. I heard that “little voice” say “pull off the road.” I LISTENED to that little voice!
Without argument, I pulled onto the brick road leading to the temple, and the Bretmobile stopped. I looked under the hood, and except for excessive heat, could detect nothing wrong. I managed to turn the car around, but then it stopped again, and would not restart. I knew
then that the Bretmobile was dead, but I was safely off busy Sheridan, safely away from any danger of cars skidding on the wet pavement and crashing into me even with blinkers on, safely where I could await the tow truck I called on my cell. The tow truck arrived, loaded my
car, took me to the mechanic, and took me home; I later learned that the car could have caught on fire! The Bretmobile is gone, but I’m safe, because I was, for once, still and silent while driving, and able to benefit from hearing (and listening to) that little voice (and
not being exposed to unnecessary honking that would have occurred had the car died on Sheridan). I’m grateful.
Summer is a busy time often emphasizing “fun,” and autumn is a season for settling down and getting back to regular living. It’s also a time for introspection, and expressing gratitude for all of the good things in our lives (and that can include “bad”
things, because it is important to find the good in everything). Even the honking of car horns can be a good thing. In my case it gave me reason to be grateful for my own peace of mind, and to be empathic for those without peace of mind.
What will it be in your case? Lay off the horn (or other noise), be still, listen, and see what happens!
© Copyright 2005 Bret S. Beall. All Rights
Read Past "Seasoned
July-Sept 2005 - "A Recipe for Balanced Living"
April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"
2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS,
I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time,
effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific
training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and
logic, with global cuisine, décor, lifestyle concepts,
indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an
easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain
style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com,
or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s start at the beginning,
though. I was born in California’s San Francisco Bay
area and lived there until I was seven. During this
time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and
to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great
interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with
my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my
environmental interests (including growing houseplants).
When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern
Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed
intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised
cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our
neighbor’s pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce
and I first learned about preparing and preserving food.
It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my
interests in art, design and esthetics.
I did my undergraduate work in
geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia,
graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my
coursework included a typical array of liberal arts
courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the
sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology,
anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I
learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After
graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in
evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology,
biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the
framework of proper scientific methodology.
Ann Arbor has a terrific
Farmer’s Market, which inspired me and helped me to
act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining;
this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate
student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate
student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic
inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration
to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and
speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and
international meetings, and at various clubs and
organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I
had not experienced previously as I shared the
information and data that I had collected. “Sharing”
was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of
GOD-DESS were planted.
I left Ann Arbor for
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to accept a
position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek
Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum
responsibilities and my own research required living
both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very
short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend
the rest of my life within the academic world. I had
already experienced a high level of international
success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful
(including making it into the Guinness Book of World
Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about
my research on The Tonight Show). I
eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This
is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.
I spent the next decade in the
field of not-for-profit healthcare association
management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization,
streamlining, prioritization, customer service,
budgeting, organization, communication and
simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific
training to the needs of my clients. My clients
experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.
Although my salary was better
than it was in academia, I still practiced my
cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home
to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so
time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued
to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in
my various roles (including organizational
representative, event organizer, executive manager, and
lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to
cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions
that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my
travel planning skills. On my own time during this
decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying
on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.
After more than a decade of
helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary
growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance
growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be
quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and
devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.
I believe we are always in the
right place at the right time. Because of that belief,
everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive
healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do
well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime
of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and
everything it can do for you. I am grateful.
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