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.