We are a society that rewards motion. The message of always moving, always doing, always going somewhere whether it’s shopping, working, driving, running errands, meetings or just providing the appearance of productivity resonates deep within us as being normal. Remarkably, even when we are not running around, our Minds are still in motion, whirling with thoughts and emotions. Activity is non-stop, physically and certainly mentally; so much so, we are often uncomfortable with silence and tranquility and need noise to fill any void.
Try to recall the last time you truly felt still. More specifically, when you purposefully took the proactive step to clear your Mind and pause your emotions. If you’re like most Americans, you probably cannot recall as it’s not a formal process we allow ourselves. Our most convenient excuse is we simply don’t have time to be still, we cannot be bothered, we are too busy!
Stillness is finding comfort in going Nowhere. Why on earth, you ask, would you want to go Nowhere? We are an overachieving society, always bragging about what we did, where we went, who we saw. We fill our busy schedules to show how productive we are, how popular we are, how accomplished we are. Nobody brags about doing nothing, going nowhere. Society has a word for that: lazy.
But the notion behind Nowhere is choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward. It is proactive and curious, not lazy and boring. We view the world externally but stillness challenges us to look inside-out. It isn’t about turning your back on the world but rather stepping away now and then so you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply. Most of our problems lie within. If we can carve out time for stillness, to calm the mind, we can investigate solutions to what troubles us. Often, it’s not our experiences that form us but rather the ways in which we respond to them, how we react and manage stress. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Nature can offer us stillness. You may have experienced this without formally recognizing it when you saw a gorgeous sunset, a breathtaking view or just the quiet calm at the park lined with still trees. You were so awestruck by it your Mind literally stopped thinking and was truly in the moment, just taking it all in without analyzing or trying to make sense of the beauty. There was inner peace, a brief respite, before your Mind then took over and turned up the thinking volume once again. But imagine if you could experience that calm for more than just that brief moment. When we purposefully sit still and turn inward, being in the moment and content in going Nowhere, this can be your inner landscape. It is always full of colors, sights and beauties; always, more or less, unaltered.
The art of stillness takes effort, energy and time. But we live in chaotic times and crave that deep sense of peace. The paradox is in this time of speed, nothing can be more stimulating than going slow; in this time of distraction, nothing can be more soothing than paying attention; in this time of movement, nothing can be more calming than sitting still. Stillness may just be the greatest gift you can offer yourself.