by rebecca on June 16, 2013

Post image for stillness

What do you resist about stillness? “Sit still,” is an admonishment I heard when I was little and wiggled in the pew at church. But then there are the phrases we’ve heard at countless funerals, “Lead me beside the still waters,” is that comforting or eery?

What actually happens when you sit still?

I fall asleep.  It’s how I escape those VOICES in my head.

I begin with the best intentions to be meditative and enlightened. But the plain truth is, I’m weary. I’m too tired to be still. Stillness takes work. I know everyone in yoga class looks forward to savasana pose, but I’ve always found it to be the most difficult pose.

That’s when the noise monkeys invade my brain, “Did you remember to call the dentist? How can you keep forgetting this? That kid’s teeth are going to rot before you remember to PICK UP THE PHONE!” I breathe. This is savasana. Make friends with the thought and let it go.

“When are you going to finish that article? You told her you’d have it to her yesterday. You haven’t even gotten a good start on an idea. That’s because you let yourself get distracted. If you could focus, you’d be a better writer.” This thought is tougher to surrender with my breath. So I employ a little trick I learned called “high-speed.” I watch my thoughts on high speed and listen to my voice as if I were Alvin, the Chipmunk. I breathe again and a new thought enters.

And so it goes as I lay in savasana, practicing stillness, thinking, “This?? This is peaceful??” Not so much. But the practice helps me. A little.

I truly get still when I’m walking. The faster I go, the more still that brain of mine becomes.

I live where a giant blue heron will rise up out of the irrigation ditch that parallels the road and spreads its mighty wings across my entire field of view. I get caught up in the whap, whap, whap of his flapping as he surges skyward. His neck is chopstick thin compared to his massive body and dinosaur raptor arms that beat against the wind carrying him into the sky over my head. The rhythm of his wings chases away the thoughts of dentists or writing failings that threatened to crawl into my mind.

I am mesmerized by my heron friend.

I strain my eyes to the distant pond where he might land, but I can no longer see him.

Instead, I see the plethora shades of green that coexist in our valley. Ranchers grow alfalfa to feed their cattle in the winter. Wild asparagus grows along the waterways begging to be picked and eaten as I walk home. Pinion pine and sage commingle on the mountainside in the distance.

I take one step and then another into this bounty of green. It seeps into my consciousness one blade of grass at a time, erasing worry, taming failings, reminding me that I remember.

I remember the green of my banana seat bicycle and the long handlebars I held onto as I rode up and down the street with my friend Kimberly. The freckles on her nose went from 4 to 9 the summer she turned 7. I remember the summer after my parent’s divorce when my father took my sister and I backpacking. I found a cow’s hipbone, bleached from the sun and tossed it over my shoulder. “It’s my bagpipe, Dad.” I carried the bone, Dad carried me and our Landrover, Gerty, that was covered with daisy decals, carried us.

I am not great at still meditation. But I crave stillness nonetheless. I am eager to get away from that voice that punishes me. So I walk toward the water where the heron startles and the green welcomes and all the brain chatter is washed away one step at a time.


What is your story of stillness?


Please help me: I learn by entering into community. Last year I led a class called A Soulful Cleanse and the people who gathered there taught me about tidying my home, my life and my calendar. This year I want to learn about getting grounded with “Gravity Rocks.” I believe that one stone, one story at a time, we can rock one world. My friends have deep wisdom and I’d like to collect it.

Respond to the story by linking up in the comment section. Post something on your blog, Facebook page, Pinterest or other favorite space. Then join my FAC  when we’ll gather together to talk about our art, business and all things stillness.

Dial 805-399-1200, then enter the code 902433# to join Friday, June 21 1pm Pacific/ 4:00pm Eastern.


You’ve probably seen Anne Lamott’s chapter from Bird by Bird entitled “Shitty First Drafts.” I took the advice to heart when I painted my first rock for this series above. The idea is simply to get started. In the end, I like the photo, even if the letters on the stone are a little messy.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Kennedy June 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I find it terribly difficult to sit still. My mind is constantly in GO mode, even when going to bed. This has kept me up late into the night!

I’ve meditated before, and I absolutely loved it. I really need to make time to do it again.

But, I love your story about the heron. Stillness doesn’t always necessarily mean meditating or sitting still in a yoga pose.

I live very close to the beach. I’m thinking I should take more advantage of that!! Thanks for the insight and inspiration!


rebecca June 21, 2013 at 5:56 am

You stay up late. I don’t have trouble with that. But I am awakened early, mind already GOing. I know this feeling. And it’s why cultivating stillness is important to me.

I’m jealous you get to live near the beach. But I have the mountains…so that is good and I will remember that.


Sue Rodda June 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I found this on the day you announced the prompt for the first class…

“There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and perfect contentment.”

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

At the encouragement of others, I’ve been practicing the practice of breathing. Saying no to the urgency of the thoughts swirling through my head, and yes to a moment of stillness and breathing, is often met with resistance. At first, only exhaustion was a valid enough reason to allow myself to stop and breathe. Over time, I recognize the spinning wheels sooner, and choose to stop and nurture my frantic being with even a minute of relaxed breathing. I’m almost always rewarded with a fresh perspective and a renewed spirit.

It’s about choosing kindness and compassion for myself.


rebecca June 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Oh Sue, this is so insightful. “At first only exhaustion was a valid enough reason to allow myself to stop and breathe.” So many of us fall prey to this philosophy. Rather than nurture ourselves to optimal health. So wise. Thank you for sharing both here and in class.


Jennifer July 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I’m still stuck on page 32 of The Joy Diet because I haven’t incorporated menu item #1 A Daily Dose of Stillness into my day. I know it’s a productive and totally loving thing to do for myself but it doesn’t feel productive.
But here’s what I notice when I stop and breathe for a moment. My muscles melt. I take in my surroundings and appreciate what I’ve brought into my life. I notice that my body tingles and buzzes. I’m reminded I’m alive.

I once attended a Reiki weekend intensive workshop where the Reiki Master led us through a guided meditation to meet our spirit guides. Previous to this workshop I’d never attempted meditation with any real conviction- just a few flings with a mantra or affirmation while breathing deeply. Well, I wanted to meet my spirit guide but I was skeptical too. That woo woo stuff didn’t really happen to me even though I believed in it. I tried so hard to meditate, to get my mind to another realm. My long deep breaths put me right to sleep. I opened my eyes and realized the guided meditation was over and we’d moved on to the next topic. This continued to happen whenever I came back to meditating.

Most of my days are a string of out-of-body-moments and intermittent flashes of awareness. So if abandoning your body to find peace and enlightened states through your mind was effective I’d be a freakin’ Master. We all would be. As I continued to dabble in meditating a new realization slooowly crept in. I began to understand what I didn’t before. It was conscious and subtle, it was paying attention and noticing right now. I’d wanted to go so deep that I would be transported to some alternate perspective. I thought it was about leaving my body to go somewhere else but it’s just the opposite. The 1st step is coming back to your body, remembering you are here right now living in your body, and noticing what that feel like. Now when I take a few minutes to be quiet, it feel like pressing the reset button on my brain, and saying Hey! I’m alive in my body in the world right this second! How cool is that?


rebecca July 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I’m so touched by this: ” I thought it was about leaving my body to go somewhere else but it’s just the opposite.” Wow. Yes. I find this over and over. And over. How many times will I learn this lesson? Stillness for me is about engaging SO DEEPLY with my body that I find the quiet. That’s why sometimes stillness looks very busy – like a sweaty hike, or kayaking, or wrestling with a particularly difficult piece of writing. It’s when I totally DIVE IN that things get quiet. The BRAIN NOISE goes away and I am left with nothing but the experience of living.

Ahhh. Thanks for articulating this.


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