© 2011-2023 Michelle Boccanfuso Nanouche, CSB. All rights reserved. Pages updated 2 December, 2022.
Gertrude Stein wrote in her book Everybody's Autobiography (1937), "It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing."
I must say I do agree. At least it can look that way to an observer. And it often feels that way to the one going through the process of sitting, thinking, squirming, waiting, wondering, gazing out the window, staring at the wall, clipping fingernails, thinking... all the while waiting for some outward sign of forward movement.
Oh, how many times have I experienced just that. Each time I think I will discover some new way to circumvent the process. And then, here we go again.
A couple of years ago, I was in the middle of what looked and felt like a "doing nothing" patch. I had been staring at the walls for a decent chunk of time as January dragged into February. When it looked like February might pass into March without much to say for it, I reached out to a Christian Science practitioner for help.
Christian Science practitioners (like me) pray for people to help them out of stuck places in their lives. I wasn't sure what I was looking for from this prayer, other than the ability to trust that all this quiet, and thinking, and sitting, and doing nothing but scrutinize my white walls, was OK... And to know that I wasn't nuts. Because, frankly, I wondered what was wrong with me that nothing seemed to be going on in my life.
So she prayed for me until I saw the reinforcing power that develops in deep periods of quiet. I would describe what I saw this way:
Think of the formation of a wave. A wave develops well under the surface on the ocean floor. The current (think undertow, when it happens near the shore) pulls back, and finally pushes up, propelling the water forward with amazing force. We glory in the beauty of the activity on the surface, not always recognizing the invisible, silent, essential build-up of strength that precedes it.
I turn to Mary Baker Eddy for a clear description of the metaphysics of this wave development. She wrote, "Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 323)
No matter what it looks like on the surface, something powerful is happening.
I have been a pusher all my life. But I love to think now of these strength-yielding pauses. I believe it is absolutely essential to allow oneself the mental space - white wall space - to pause, to be - to think and wonder and even squirm (!), - as one waits on the onward push of God, omniactive good.
Its not really a time thing. I have had pauses that last but a second before the next breakers of inspiration jettison me forward onto the shore of some new adventure or activity. Others have been long. Really long. What looked, up close, to be a two month pause a couple of years ago, was really the last momentum-gathering undertow at the end of a six year deep-think pause. But the force of that build-up has carried me through some of my most productive and interesting years yet.
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Rooted and grounded like an oak
Did you know that oaks have a root system that is often of greater volume than the branching system of the tree? The roots are designed to feed and stabilize the tree, while the branches send water and nutrients back to the roots. An oak's root system starts with a large taproot, from which the rest of the smaller roots reach out beyond the above-ground parts of the tree.
During the winter, when the visible parts are dormant, the roots continue to function and grow even if the air above ground is brutally cold. This steady, persistent activity at root level fortifies the tree and prepares it for the rapid growth of spring. Winter root activity strengthens, giving trees staying power through the heat and drought of summer and fall.
I think we can draw two important parallels between us and the oaks. First, surface appearances aren't everything. Second, we each have a vital taproot.
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I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no