“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” – The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
For as long as I remember, I have been very good at sitting still.
It rocked when we were children, as I could find a quiet hiding spot and sit there, perfectly still, grinning away in the dark at the thought of being not found.
The quietness was like an old friend, comfortable and familiar and despite being surrounded by people, I could close my eyes and drift away to a place that was all mine.
It wasn’t that great when I would be given up being found for good and everyone would have left me, already engrossed in another game.
But I didn’t mind sitting there.
These days, I’m not so good at it.
I can’t help but notice the people around me – on the train, in the streets, sitting at their desks – body language screaming out “I’m busy, I’m connected, I’m late!”
Heads down, fingers furiously typing away at their phones, laptops, iPads.
Conversations scheduling the next thing to do, minds racing a mile a minute to work out how they are going to fit in yet another task into their ever-increasing list.
As my own life has become busier and filled to the brim with juggling work, family, marriage and everything else in between – when I close my eyes – I can’t find that place of peace anymore.
There is this voice in my head that whispers at my shoulder all the things I SHOULD be doing instead of sitting still.
How can I just SIT there when I have no time and there are THINGS to be done?
“Ok…I’m just going to sit here.”
“What? Seriously?! You could be out running right now! Or writing. Or finally cleaning out that cupboard full of random eBay things you have hoarded for the last three years”
“I NEED this. Shoo.”
“You NEED to get a move on. You have so much to do!”
“So what’s on your list today? I can help.”
“Just breathe. Breeeeeeeeathe”
“Did you remember to take out the chicken from the freezer?”
“Oh shit. Oops…back to breathing…”
This voice tells me what SHOULD be happening. My mind is crammed with all the things I SHOULD be doing to reaching my goals and desire of happiness – misguided and true both.
I SHOULD be exercising right now if I want to get fit.
I SHOULD be working on that article if I want to be a writer.
I SHOULD be taking on more work if I want that promotion.
Last week when I was home due to my wisdom teeth – it was the first time in a long while where I had no choice but to slow down.
I nearly went nuts.
I ended up filling my time with catching up on work, answering emails, chasing clients and writing reports.
To clear my mind after a particularly headachey morning, I went for a walk with the thought “I’m just going for a walk – don’t care how far or how long. Just walking”.
I ended up running half of that walk because of the voice in me that said – you SHOULD be running – you’ll get there faster.
Being in a corporate environment I am surrounded by that flow of go-go-go all the time – people are constantly on the move, time is precious and everyone is aiming to get that one rung higher on the ladder. And in the moments where I actually do try to stop and stand still – I’m swept away by this buzzing in my head of all the things I SHOULD be doing instead of not moving.
It’s the worst kind of feeling – my natural instinct is to let things go and be what they are, but the message of always striving towards…something ends up with me feeling frazzled and unsettled.
Sarah Wilson talks today about creating happiness without the expectation of something happening. Relishing in the moment of unbounded possibility and trusting yourself enough to let go of the constant voice in your head.
To find power in sitting still.
With this in mind, I walk down to my favourite coffee shop, shielding myself against the bitter cold and wind as much as I can. It’s a miserable day in Melbourne and I’m looking forward to warming my hands on my coffee and savouring that moment of respite before the day explodes into a myriad of emails, meetings and spreadsheets.
Typically, I’d be checking my phone – answering emails, making phone calls or going through in my mind what I need to do for the day.
But I stop.
Leaning against the wall of the cafe, I close my eyes.
I ignore the sounds around me, people chattering, coffee being made, phones ringing and focus on each breath as it comes.
As I listen to the steady rhythm of my breath, I feel my back sink into the wall. I feel the wall take my weight and that weight leave me.
It’s only for a few moments, and I’m sure I looked like a loon (or possibly someone who was such dire need for a coffee that I was falling asleep there and then!), but it was those few moments that re-energised me.
I felt calm and ready to tackle the day.
We tend to over-analyse things – reject simplicity– because – hey, it CAN’T be THAT easy.
But it really is.
Sitting still, even for a few moments can have such a profound effect.
There is such power in stopping, in pausing and staying still.
I’m going to try and do that – every day – just spend 5-10 minutes not moving.
And that doesn’t mean an extra 10 minutes in bed.
It means – meditating, clearing my mind and re-energising my soul.
Finding happiness in the unplanned and peace in the silence.
Do you find moments to stop and stay still?