How To Just Be: 5 Life Lessons I Learned From Watching Sunsets

“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!” ~C. JoyBell C.

“You need to just be.”

At the time I didn’t understand my teacher’s words. My identity entwined itself with my ambition.

I fought inner emptiness by overloading my calendar.

I fought loneliness by never leaving time to be with myself.

I fought depression by trying to do more.

None of it worked.

And the answer repeated itself, quiet and strong, “You need to just be.”

Fortunately, my teacher was too wise to only tell me to do less when she could see that I was clinging to busyness like a life preserver. Instead, she gently showed me where to look for more.

These are some of the lessons I learned more than thirty years ago when my teacher challenged me to meet her in an empty lot, walking distance from my house, on the side of a busy suburban Phoenix road. Day after day, we watched the sunset there together.

Lesson #1: Live deep.

There were beautiful parks in the area where I lived. Most people would have chosen a professionally landscaped setting, complete with benches, and maybe even a fountain, to watch the sunset.

But that was too much like my overly manicured life.

Instead, we sat in the dirt. The only landscaping to speak of was the sagebrush that dotted that lot.

And it was magical.

Driving by that empty lot at fifteen miles per hour, it seemed desolate. Dry. Unforgiving. But moving through it step by step, I discovered life.

I watched the birds and lizards. I discovered tiny desert flowers. The smell of sage permeated everything. Beneath the surface of what appeared dead was the beauty I had been searching for.

My feet on the ground there took me, step by step, out of the insecurities and discouragement in my own head. Slowly, wordlessly, I began to believe in something alive and beautiful in myself too.

Beneath the layers of busyness and loneliness and pain, I glimpsed happiness, and I was ready to live it again.

Lesson #2: The best part of the day probably isn’t in the schedule.

Life is a process, not an event.

Yet our culture socializes us to function as though joy can be predicted, scheduled, and completed in orderly increments.

Sunsets rebel against google calendar.

The time of the sunset shifts from day to day as the season progresses. The only way to experience the sunset is to be mindful of what is happening in the natural world, and to adapt.

It’s practice for life, when people…

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