You Cannot See Your Reflection In Boiling Water

We all need some quiet time. Typically, it means getting away from all the external noise in our lives, such as overlapping demands, chaotic conversations, and pressure to do or think what others want us to. The result is we get saturated and overloaded. We just want to get away from it all for a little while.

We need a little quiet time so we can put ourselves into perspective.

Chaos creates confusion.

Each of us has a different level of tolerance for stress. We all tend to perform better under a light stress load. We need just enough tension and challenge to motivate us and inspire us to do our best. But when we have much stress, we perform worse as we become anxious and overloaded.

Regardless of our preferences, we won’t know them unless we take some time to quietly look at ourselves first. If we can do that and really learn about ourselves, then we can take on the world on our own terms, not its terms.

You can’t see your reflection in a pot of boiling water.

We need to shut down and get away from all the conflicting signals around us and look clearly at ourselves. This can take some time.

We may find that when we look at ourselves, we don’t really see ourselves at first. We may need to check in and spend some time with ourselves a lot before we begin to fully understand ourselves. When we first sit with ourselves, the world’s noise is still ringing in our ears and our eyes are still squinting from the glare.

We may need some time to allow some emotional distance to develop between ourselves and the world and for some emotional closeness to develop between ourselves and us.

Stillness brings clarity.

Buddhist teachings sometimes use an example of the jar of muddied water. If we can leave the jar undisturbed, the mud and water will slowly separate, leaving clear water. But we have to be patient. We have to get away from those things that would shake or disturb the jar, otherwise it will never reach clarity.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” — Ram Dass

One of the nice things about stillness is that it is egalitarian. It is open and available to everyone. We can achieve it without buying, or buying into, anything at all. It is just there. The external world is loud and loves to yell at us. But our internal world loves to be quiet and whisper. We need to be quiet so we can hear it. It is sitting within all of us, simply waiting for us to become aware.

Clarity brings power.

I would argue that clarity brings power. Not power over others, but power over oneself. When we know ourselves, we put ourselves in control. But it is more than that. We can now make truly purposeful decisions. We can think and act in ways that synchronize ourselves with ourselves. If we do that, we find that internal conflict begins to fade and that self-confidence begins to rise. When we are more peaceful with ourselves, we often find that contentment, happiness, and serenity are a lot closer to us than we thought they were.

James McGinley

James McGinley

James E. McGinley, PhD, is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Certified Life Coach, and adjunct professor teaching counseling psychology at major universities for over 14 years. He was trained in Positive Psychology by some of the leading researchers in the field, including Dr. Martin Seligman, the originator of Learned Helplessness Theory. He is the author of six books covering topics such as coping, stress management, and cross-cultural adjustment, several research monographs, and over a dozen journal articles. For more insights from his blog and access to his books visit

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