Dare to be still

Last year I wrote about stillness. I have been trying very hard to conquer my stress with meditation, which requires taking the time out to be still. To find a peaceful place where my soul can unravel from the tight spiral I tend to be in by the end of each day. It’s very effective, but it does require a conscious effort to make the time, find the space, and breathe deeply. Some days life overtakes me and I just don’t manage it.

I am beginning to crave stillness more and more, but not just of a physical kind. I see stillness of all varieties as essential ingredients for grounded, connected living. The ability to be still with friends – to spend time with each other for no particular purpose, with no particular aim in mind but to be together, and be aware of each other. The ability to be still with our families – to be in the present moment, listening to each other, without one ear cocked for an sms arriving, or an email demanding attention.

We are often uncomfortable with silence. It takes a close friendship indeed to be comfortable sitting together without talking. These days life is planned, structured and organised to extremes, and a day spent doing nothing much is viewed as wasted time. Yet I think our relationships, our stress levels, our children and our lives all suffer from this perpetual motion.

Any physicist will tell you that perpetual motion is the Philosopher’s stone of Physics. It’s about as plausible as an attempt to turn lead into gold. Like a machine kept running beyond its limits, I suspect a brain that never gets downtime begins to wear out. Significant parts go ping! into the corners of the room, and pretty soon the wheels fall off altogether.

I find stillness easiest to achieve after I have written something. Whether it’s a long email to a friend, an entry for this blog, or an article for a magazine, writing is little like spring cleaning. It gets things out into the fresh air, and allows you to see patches of floor and bits of furniture that you had forgotten were buried in there. There’s a sense of achievement, afterwards. Writing helps my buzzing brain to settle, and lets me see events and feelings much more clearly.

After I have finished this post I will go out and have some pond time – sitting by our pond, listening to the local birdlife, watching the ripples on the water, and feeling my breathing slow down as the stress leaks out of my body. There is a power tool operating somewhere nearby, but it need not be a problem. I can still feel my breathing and watch the reflections on the water, and notice the patterns in the floating plants.

I have more energy, more patience, and more resilience when I build stillness into my life, but the quality of the stillness is all important. Slumped in front of my laptop clicking mindlessly on links merely makes the buzzing louder. I need to switch off my nagging devices and immerse myself in the world, rather than the world wide web. I need to reconnect with my environment, feel the air on my face, and become aware of the ground beneath my feet.

Stillness helps me work out who I really am, what’s important to me, and why I react the way I do. Stillness brings solutions, perspective, and calm.

Oddly enough playing ball with my kids also counts as stillness. Or riding bikes with them, tickling them, or pointing out passing parrots. It’s easy for my stillness to get hijacked by the todo lists screaming from every corner of my brain. Do this! Do that! Finish this! You forgot that! Those lists can be difficult to stifle, but it gets easier with practice. None of those deadlines will go away, but they will be easier to meet with my brain whole, rather than in lots of tiny pieces frantically shoved back into my skull after each crashing crisis.

When were you last still?

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3 thoughts on “Dare to be still

  1. Beautifully expressed. This is something I am also working on :-) my last still moment was on Sunday morning, just after sunrise on a beach, following a nights camping. Yesterday I was too busy doing!

  2. Joe

    “I find stillness easiest to achieve after I have written something.”
    I guess you’re craving stillness at a high level, given the churn of recent blog posts. :-P

    My son is perpetually on “high”. At 18 months old I got him a custom t-shirt with just a dial that went all the way to 11 … and it was set there. No matter how seemingly peaceful a task he’s working on, he holds his breath, lets it out and sucks it in all in one gasp, and holds it again. I constantly tell him “Adrian I can hear you breathing. Breathe gently.”

    And the other day, in my exasperation, we had this conversation:
    Me: “Adrian, can you please stand STILL while I’m talking to you!?!?”
    Adrian (throwing hands into the air and bouncing with enthusiasm): “YES!!!”

    Everyone says he’s a mini me.

  3. Last still? Pre-arranged: this morning after another coat of paint on the bedroom walls, showering and breakfast. It’s routine now.
    Random stillness: aside from reading this blog, about 20 minutes ago, on the campus grounds listening to the fruit salad parrots, and watching random profs fly by. Prior to that – lunchtime while getting some words down about a sibling of stillness- silence.
    A lot of stillness can be derived in just doing one thing – tickling, talking, etc. being in nature, (geek alert) finding a database config problem. It is important to ignore the clock. There is stillness in activity, and a heck of lot of silence to be had in music.

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