I've been quiet lately. I initiated a life change and decided to practice this change before fully diving into this new way of life. I thought with enough practice I would suddenly feel ready to begin my new life change. Well, this isn’t how it works. I know, from experience, I must begin before I am ready. Just begin. So here it is the beginning. Day one.
The past year I decided to take a fun break. Not step away from life or ritual, but allow for more fun. I finally was well after years of illness and I decided to just let go for a bit and fill my calendar with dinners and walks with friends and my mom, Saturday afternoon chats with my dad before football games, and many other activities that popped up that I grew so accustomed to declining for so long. The fun felt good. It was nice to learn to balance fun on my life scale. But, a few months ago, I started to get an itch. An itch to sit still, again.
I’m not one to paint a rosy picture over ugliness that life can be sometimes, instead I look at the ugly straight on and work to transcend it. And one of the good things about this wheelchair, among all of the bad and hard, is that I am forced to sit still, quite a bit. And forced to still before I am ever ready. This sitting down and sitting still quiets my mind and teaches me to drown out the noise. Without this stillness, I feel lost and out of control.
Before my injury, I was what I call a doer. I always used the catch phrase, I’m so busy. My life is so busy. Busy can be a bit of an obsession and a way I thought I should live. Busy can sometimes be mistaken for living. But it isn’t. It’s just moving from one thing to the next without really thinking or feeling or sitting still long enough to gain insight from the momentum. I started to feel this busy feeling creep up over the last year and I didn’t like it. And while I appreciate and love to incorporate a bit of fun, I also learned the importance of the quiet and the stillness. I feel like I always knew the importance of the stillness, but, once again, I learned the same lesson all over again.
In this effort to start again, I challenged myself to forty days of a list of new rituals. I added and changed meditations. I renewed my meditation space. I organized my nutrition goals and rearranged my day so it is filled with more silence. And finally, I decided to notice little moments of inspiration and gratitude and joy. And not just notice them, really take them in and think about them and, once again, make inspiration and gratitude and joy a practice. I never really let up my practice completely, but I definitely skipped it a few days and felt the dryness and emptiness that came with the missed practice. I think the best use of this practice of finding the light is when it is found in the darkest of situations. So, I don’t want to paint that rosy picture. I just want to find the moon after I stare into the darkness for a while. Because perfection isn’t the goal. Peace is the goal. Peace when the waves are rough and peace when the waters are calm. This kind of peace only comes with practice and sitting still.
So, I start today, yet again, with a renewed forty days of practice. This isn’t a significant day, just the day I decided to begin before I am ready. I hope this will encourage you to take a bit of time to be still and silent. Even just five minutes. When I feel lost and out of practice and out of sorts, I start with five minutes of quiet. I set the timer on my phone and I sit quietly until it alarms. This simple few minutes jolts me back to where I belong. Just five minutes.
Leondard Cohen had become the poet laureate of those on the road, refusing to stick to any form of settling down, a “gypsy boy” who wouldn’t sit still within any of the expectations we brought to him. But, like many a wanderer, he seemed always to know that it’s only when you stop moving that you can be moved in some far deeper way (“Now I know why many men have stopped and wept,” he writes in an early poem, “Halfway between the loves they leave and seek, / And wondered if travel leads them anywhere”).
-Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness