This week I’ve been helpfully confronted by my tendency to associate stillness either with stuckness or a lack. Lack of motion, noise, action, life force. My bank account is still which is stressful. A beached whale is still which is devastating. An instrument that you don’t make time to pick up and play is still which is wasteful…
Having glorified ‘busy’ from an early age, having delivered more than one inspo speech about ‘saying yes’, and with a few unlikely close-call over-commitment victories under my belt, stillness has definitely become a challenge for me.
It can be scary that the most significant way that I experience stillness as an adult, is now through sickness. Sometimes my body just calls me out on dangling a decent rest infront of its face to keep it plodding forward beyond its capacity. I’ll spontaneously lose my voice or get a toothache that takes dentists and neurologists two weeks to figure out because the pain has been redirected somewhere inexplicable. Usually it’s just shacked up at the nearest body-part-BnB having given up on its road trip to my busy brain with a two-word telegram that always says: ‘Stop Moving!’
When my flatmate asked me if it had occurred to me that ‘momentum’ and ‘progress’ aren’t the same thing, it touched a nerve. ‘You’re just determined to keep on moving, but if you sat still for 2 minutes you might notice that even if it’s exhilarating to accelerate, you could be spinning yourself around and around in circles for all you know.’
I’m relieved to discover that the fear of figuring out you’re on loop, or any fear of what might surface in the stillness, is a common fear. Now I’m slowly nurturing a sense of warmth for the moments in which I do find, and even enjoy, stillness. In the car on the motorway. In the shower where it’s criminal to think about work. In the ocean when the temperature change scares my to-do-list off. There’s an opportunity presented in the space between every inhale and exhale, if I could just stop defining it as a lack of breath!
A great analogy from last week’s wānanga brings stillness into perspective for me: If your life is a train zooming down the tracks, then unless you find moments to step onto the platform and watch the train in motion, you might find yourself stuck inside the passenger carriage trying everything to find a way to stop the train altogether so you can take a break! You don’t have to put the brakes on the whole train, if you just make a habit of stepping out of the carriage for a moment and letting it carry on past you.
When I stop thinking of stillness as something to achieve, but rather as a feeling to make space for, I can override my addiction to keeping the wheels turning, and maybe be brave enough to listen for a clue about where this train is even headed for!