Stillness: inspiration from Brene Brown

By 24/10/2016Blog

This week’s theme at CoLiberate is stillness, chosen by our awesome yoga teacher, Rosie.  How can we practice stillness in our lives? What does it mean to be still?

It has got me really thinking about how I incorporate stillness into my day and the importance of taking a moment to sit still. The words ‘sit still’ flood back memories of mum telling me off as a child for moving so much and to ‘be quiet’ and ‘sit still’. If only it as that easy!

Now that i am an adult and I have 5 different places of work, freelance acting gigs and a highly active social life – i can’t wait for when i get a moment to be quiet and sit still, ground me and bring my focus back to the present. I am really looking forward to this Thursday to hear other perspectives and voices on how to make more space for this in our days. But for now I thought I would share my biggest inspiration on stillness which comes from Dr. Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection.

“If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

“I wish I could tell you how much I resisted even hearing people describe stillness as an integral part of their Wholehearted journey.  From meditation and prayer to regular periods of quiet reflection and alone time, men and women spoke about the necessity of quieting their bodies and minds as a way to feel less anxious and overwhelmed.

“I’m sure my resistance to this idea comes from the fact that just thinking about meditating makes me anxious.  When I try to meditate, I feel like a total poser.  I spend the entire time thinking about how I need to stop thinking, Okay, I’m not thinking about anything.  I’m not thinking about anything.  Milk, diapers, laundry detergent…stop!  Okay, not thinking.  Not thinking.  Oh, man.  Is this over yet?

“I don’t want to admit it, but the truth is that stillness used to be very anxiety provoking for me.  In my mind, being still was narrowly defined as sitting cross-legged on the floor and focusing on that elusive nothingness.  As I collected and analyzed more stories, I realized that my initial thinking was wrong.  Here’s the definition of stillness that emerged from the data:

 

Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing.  It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.

 

Once we can let go of our assumptions about what stillness is supposed to look like and find a way to create a clearing that works for us, we stand a better chance of opening ourselves up and confronting the next barrier to stillness: fear.  And it can be big, big fear.

If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us.  We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up.  So we stay in front of the truth about how tired and scared and confused and overwhelmed we sometimes feel.  Of course, the irony is that the thing that’s wearing us down is trying to stay out in front of feeling worn down.  This is the self-perpetuating quality of anxiety.  It feeds on itself.  I often say that when they start having Twelve Step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums.

In addition to fear, another barrier that gets in the way of both stillness and calm is how we’re raised to think about these practices.  From very early in our lives, we get confusing messages about the value of calm and stillness.  Parents and teachers scream, ‘Calm down!’ and ‘Be still!’ rather than actually modeling the behaviors they want to see.  So instead of becoming practices that we want to cultivate, calm gives way to perpetuating anxiety, and the idea of stillness makes us feel jumpy.

In our increasingly complicated and anxious world, we need more time to do less and be less.  When we first start cultivating calm and stillness in our lives, it can be difficult, especially when we realize how stress and anxiety define so much of our daily lives.  But as our practices become stronger, anxiety loses its hold and we gain clarity about what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what holds true meaning for us.”