August 20, 2015

What I Learned this Summer: The Art of Being Still.

still water

I’ll be honest, when I signed up to participate in elephant journal’s summer apprenticeship in social media, journalism and editing I had no clue what I was really getting myself into.

All I know is when I saw the opportunity it yelled at me from the screen.

This summer has been a summer of pulling the plug and starting afresh in so many ways.

A summer of leaving behind jobs, homes, countries, friends and starting again.  A summer of sitting in silence for 10 days learning Vipassana.

A summer of what feel like new beginnings.

Having spent the last 10 days sitting in the silence of meditation, I have had plenty of opportunity to digest the impact of my time with elephant journal.

When I started the apprenticeship and posting to the Elephant Europe and Elephant Ecofashion Facebook pages I was terrified of failure.  What If I post something wrong? What if I don’t get results? What if the pages don’t grow in readership? Most of all, what if what I post is not good enough?

But now, as I write this, I’m feeling advance withdrawal symptoms from the community that I’ve had more contact with than most of my friends and family over the last weeks. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to work with so many inspiring people. People across the world who are passionate about elephant’s mission, and ultimately in creating a more mindful world.

Most of all, it has been reading the articles and stories of my fellow apprentices and other elephant journal writers that will leave a lasting impression on my heart.

I dedicate these learnings—with love—to myself, to all those who have supported me, and most of all to my fellow apprentices, teachers, and the leaders at elephant journal who have kept me going and through whom I have grown.

You can only be true to yourself.

I started posting trying to second guess others. How they would respond. Trying to guess what would “work” on Facebook pages and what wouldn’t. It turns out, trying to work out what will get the most likes is exhausting. At some point, I realized all I could do was make sure I was listening to feedback from readers, but most importantly posting images and articles that resonated with me and that I genuinely believed in. It has to be real.

You can’t do it on your own.

Well, you often have to start on your own. Stick your neck out and be prepared to take steps. Start somewhere. Anywhere. But this experience has taught me that, at some point, in order to reach milestones and achieve successes you need the support of others. Friendly faces with words of encouragement. Elephant journal’s Facebook pages range from small pages to large well-established pages, and as poster to one of the smaller pages, I quickly learned that without support from those looking after larger pages, my page’s progress would be painfully slow.

Impermanence. Of everything.

“That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence.” ~ Pema Chodron

Returning from a 10-day Vipassana course, where one of the key teachings is the ever-changing nature of life—of everything—I realize I have seen this during my apprenticeship as well.  Looking at the progress of Facebook page insights, one day I hit a high and I felt on cloud nine—only to plummet the next week as the numbers fell.  Just as in life, I learnt I had to be on the ball every day, never taking success for granted but just enjoying each small step forward—and the steps backward too.


Rome was not built in a day, and neither was elephant journal, or even a Facebook page. This has been a hard lesson when there’s so much passion and enthusiasm involved. Like sitting still in meditation for hours without so much as lifting a finger, the editing side of this apprenticeship has again reminded me that I need to pause for breath. Most of all, taking the time to be mindful in what I write, edit or post. In the world of flashing banner ads, rolling newsfeeds and hundreds of notifications, I have found it hard to stay calm.

One day, one step, one breath at a time.

Posting to Facebook pages is the perfect example that every day we get another chance.  To start afresh.  Not only a chance though—it’s something I have realised that I have to do.  We have to begin again each day, otherwise yesterday’s efforts fade away into the background.

Never give up.

A wise man once said, if you really want to be a writer, never give up.  Sounds simple, but then it started to sink in.  Really, never give up.  That takes so much determination and commitment.  How committed was I? How committed are we in general to things? Observing myself, our behavior generally seems to be that we give things a go for a while, but if they don’t work out, sooner or later we decide to stop, or let them go. What if we were to never give up. Really.

So far, I have not given up on writing and don’t intend to. I think I’m going to give this never giving up thing a try.


Author: Ellie Cleary

Apprentice Editor: Ellie Cleary/Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Flickr/Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho


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