Practicing Stillness

When was the last time that you stood still and did absolutely, positively nothing? When I say “nothing,” I mean it: no talking, no reading, no surfing the web, no mental planning and prepping and worrying.

Sunshine

How often do you stop just to enjoy the world around you? (Photo credit: Emdadi)

If you had asked me a week ago, I’m not sure I could have thought of an answer. Oh, sure, every once in a while I’ll head to the beach or relax on the deck to catch a few rays. On occasion, I’ve even been known to venture outside at night, sip hot chocolate, and stargaze, but those occasions are far and few between.

On a normal basis, I think I operate like most people: I spend my days doing. I measure my life by the number of items I can check off the daily to-do list, by the words I am able to write, by the assignments I grade for the day job, hell, even by the achievements I can accrue in my favorite video games. Real, true stillness is something that doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been living in warp speed: defending my MA thesis, grading wave after wave of papers, weathering finals week and the end of the quarter, followed by glutting myself on fun and games and sightseeing over spring break and the start of the new quarter. I had one day of psuedo-downtime planned for myself — a Monday that would be “catch-up” day to tackle email, reading for class, and some writing if I was lucky — but I never quite made it that far. My body, it seems, had other ideas.

My tumble off-the-grid was completely unintentional, the byproduct of a short, but nasty, bout with food poisoning. It didn’t seem┬áso bad at first. Yeah, okay, there was the expected nausea and dizziness, but it sorta felt like a migraine, and I’ve worked through those before. But oh, ohhhh. It just got worse.

The thing is, I don’t do sick. I refuse to let most colds keep me down, pushing my way past them to at least read or write or tackle something. I thought I might be able to do the same with this. Like, maybe if I just showered and brushed my teeth, I’d be good as new. Right?

Wrong.

There was nausea and dizziness if I so much as lifted my head from the pillow. There were intense muscle aches and chills just from breathing, it seemed. And of course, there were the *other* symptoms brought on by my body’s attempts to rid itself of the yuckiness. Blech.

So, no, I couldn’t read for class, and I couldn’t “relax” by playing video games, at least for the first couple of days. Listening to music became too much for me to handle, and ditto on watching television.

Instead, I sat (or, rather, huddled) in bed. I did absolutely nothing, not by choice, but because I really couldn’t… and it was actually an amazing experience, if we ignore the whole “being miserable” part. For three days, I let myself just be, allowed my body to recuperate and repair itself, and let go of all the stress and worry that had been plaguing me.

It is striking for me to realize that the only time I give myself permission to “indulge” in the joys of stillness is when I’m too sick to function, and I get the feeling that I’m not the only one. It doesn’t seem fair, really. We spend so much of our time doing for others, and it’s so easy to let ourselves fall by the wayside.

What would it be like if we took even a little time out of each day to recharge and wallow in laziness? Just 10 or 20 minutes to be quiet and tranquil, to turn off the computer and television and radio (yes, sometimes I run all 3 at the same time) and just let our minds wander? We’d be healthier for it, I think, and maybe even have a chance to savor all of the joys that we have a little more deeply.

What do you do to recharge and regroup? What are your favorite places or times of the day to practice stillness?

 

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18 thoughts on “Practicing Stillness

  1. This has been a topic hevy in my thoughts lately, too. That’s why I’ve committed to taking Sabbath seriously and carving out that time for my family and myself. No video games. No computer time. Just being with them. Talking. Sharing. Coloring. Reading a story together. And only after sharing a special meal. (special as in set apart…not necessarily fancy) I’ve heard from so many women that Sabbath bonds you to those you love. Fills you with restfulness and peace. I want that. Maybe we’re slightly different in our approach, but we are seeking and enjoying the same thing! :) Let’s not forget how good it feels…

    Um…without the food poisoning this time. Ha. Sure hope you get well quick!
    Nadja Notariani recently posted..I’ve Been Tagged!My Profile

    • Nadja, I LOVE the way that this sounds. I’ve been looking at my schedule, and I think Saturday is probably the day I’m going to try to leave open for actually resting. It’s such a great idea. :D

  2. Wow, you have my sympathy; food poisoning really sucks. As for sitting still and doing nothing, I practice this daily. In that peaceful silence lives the creative spark that drives and inspires me. In there lives the true spirit of my being; in there, I am.
    So happy for you that you have found your way to this beautiful place.
    Prudence MacLeod recently posted..LanguageMy Profile

    • Prudence, that’s fantastic! For so long, I stoked my creative flames through journaling, which is wonderful, but I think you’re right — the peaceful silence is also powerful, if not more so. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :D

  3. Oh, I love doing nothing! My favorite place to do that is in a comfortable chair in front of a window. When I lived in Ecuador, there was a time I lived in an apartment with the most amazing view of the city with the moutains in the background. I could just sit and stare out the window for hours, literally. Where I live now, the view is not as great so I find I mostly stare at the clouds and watch the way they move. But, I look forward to discovering the new view out my window when I move to Miami. Hopefully there’ll be water! Great post!
    Emma Burcart recently posted..Some Things You Just KnowMy Profile

    • Oh gosh, a mountain view? That sounds absolutely breathtaking!

      You’ve just reminded me that I have a wonderfully comfy chair that I always forget to sit in. It’s tucked away in a little corner of my apartment, and it’s beneath the window, so on clear days, the sunlight spills through and is super relaxing. I am going to have to take advantage of it. :D

  4. Oh wow, I can so relate to this post. To your usual MO, not the food poisoning, fortunately. Even if I do sit still and do nothing, it’s rare that my mind slows down – one reason I struggle with insomnia, I suspect. Making an effort to just sit quietly without having to do anything can do wonders for our writing, too, so it’s really worth taking that little bit of time. Now if I can just push the mental to-do list away…
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..Fantasy and Family: Author Alicia McKenna Johnson, with GiveawayMy Profile

  5. Why is it we always rediscover these things after a bout of pain?! I almost just posted the longest comment ever….I think I’ll just add it to my check in on Sunday LOL. Basically, this week I actually found something that allows me to BREATHE…and unrestricted for the first time in…I dunno…3 years?? I didn’t sleep the whole night. Just laid there and stared at everything. I had so much energy because I wasn’t constantly using it to get air, but it was the middle of the night and I didn’t know what to do with myself! It was wonderful.

    I’m so sorry you had food poisoning. It’s the worst. And I’m really glad you’re starting to feel better. Thank you for posting about this. Even though I did it, I hadn’t really thought about how important it is and how I never allow myself to practice it.
    Lauren Garafalo recently posted..Sweet 60s and a ROW80 Check InMy Profile

    • Ack, three years?! That is crazy, but it reminds me of how I feel after I’ve recovered from a long term asthma attack. I am SO happy that you’ve found something to help you, though! <3 <3

  6. Lena, I hope you’re feeling better now. Do take care of yourself!

    Although I rarely get sick, when I do, I push through sickness and force myself to carry on as if it isn’t there. I’ve had to do this because it always seemed like the flu hit me at month end, when I couldn’t take time off work. Only once did it hit so bad, I couldn’t get out of bed for longer than half an hour. The flu his my husband at the same time and our kids ended up taking care of us. :)

    The first paragraph of your post really touched me today, as I woke up thinking the exact same thoughts. When was the last time I stood still? So I’ve been playing with the idea of rearranging my week so that I take every Friday afternoon off, unplug from the world of demands, and just do whatever strikes my fancy … as long as it doesn’t require thinking or pressure. We all need to find our inner peace.
    Sheila Seabrook recently posted..Authors In Bloom Giveaway Hop/Enter to Win A Nook/Enter to Win a Kindle!My Profile

    • Oh gosh, the flu is the absolute worst. I love the fact that you’re thinking about rearranging the week — I’ve been toying with arranging my schedule so that I can have Saturday as a strictly no-work, all-play day, with an emphasis on unplugging and just enjoying myself. And you said it perfectly — inner peace is where our focus should be.

      Thanks for swinging by, Sheila!

  7. Oh my gosh, how awful to deal with being so sick. That’s a severe case of food poisoning. I’ve never had it, thank God. I hope you’re doing much better.

    How cool that you found something good in such a terrible experience! I seldom have moments of stillness, but lately while babysitting grandbaby, I sit and watch him as he stares at his hands and moves his fingers or discovers something new. It’s very calming and like seeing life through a child’s eyes again. I love it! But usually I’m rushing around, so it’s good to have these quiet moments.

    I hope you get to enjoy the stillness when you’re not sick, at least a few moments a day. Take care!
    Lynn Kelley recently posted..Flash Fiction Just in Time For Friday the 13thMy Profile

  8. I know what you mean, Lena. I don’t “do” sick either … not on my agenda. However every once in a while it takes us down whether we like it or not. The only times I really am “still” are these: soaking in a tub with water up to my neck which I do every day or evening at some point and, the other, when I get into bed at night. I absolutely love the calm and peace of that. It’s also when I often work through the next hurdle in my WIP so I keep a notepad handy. Does that count?
    Stay well!

  9. Pingback: ROW80: It’s all About Bitty Baby Steps | Lena Corazon

  10. Glad to hear your better now.

    Being still is good for writing. There’s a pine near our house that inspired a demon for a story. It’s not special, I just happened to stare at it while my dog (9 years old) sniffed something. I noticed that the bark of the tree looked cool and the needles could be a mane running down a creature’s back and…
    If I’d been listening to music or tried nudge my dog and get home faster I’d have missed the idea.
    Emilia_Quill recently posted..MarchMadness Blog Challenge 4My Profile

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