Movement and Stillness
“Stillness, the wide-eyed stillness, blinks and at once we are awakened – softly, gently, into the mystery of the spaces we breathe.”
~ Segovia Amil
Each time I sit down to write this blog post, I get distracted. My phone lights up to notify me that I have a text. I glance at my watch and realize it's time to leave for a dentist appointment. I remember that I need to go to the grocery store to pick up a couple things for dinner. Or I'm just tired and find myself staring at a blank screen and wondering why life feels just as busy now as it did when I used to work full-time.
Am I addicted to the hustle and bustle? What is this compulsion to always be doing? Will I ever stop adding things to a never-ending to do list? I long for stillness, but it's challenging to find 5-10 minutes to meditate. It's even more daunting to carve out an hour to practice yoga or a morning to walk in nature.
Intellectually, I understand that life is a constant interplay of movement and stillness. Activity and rest. However, like many others, I often find it hard to sustain a healthy balance between these states of being.
Clearly, movement is an essential part of life. A river that doesn't flow becomes stagnant, and the same is true for our lives. We must take action to move forward, to achieve our goals, and to connect with others. Movement and physical activity are also essential for maintaining optimal physical well-being. They enhance cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles and bones, aid in weight management, boost mental well-being, prevent diseases, increase energy levels, and promote longevity.
However, living in a constant state of movement creates imbalance. When we forget to make time for rest, it creates a sense of overwhelm and stress. Constant doing can leave us feeling exhausted, drained and disconnected. That's why it's so important to find moments of calm amidst the chaos.
It's also important to differentiate between being still versus being sedentary. While both involve a lack of physical movement, there are variations in intention, context, and the level of engagement. Being still typically refers to a state of calmness or lack of movement without necessarily implying inactivity. It can involve a focused and intentional pause in action, such as during meditation, contemplation, or deep relaxation. In stillness, we can reflect on where we have been and where we want to go. We can tune in to our intuition and gain clarity on what we truly desire. We can recharge.
Being sedentary is a more passive state and refers to a prolonged period of sitting or inactivity. It implies a lack of physical movement or minimal energy expenditure for an extended duration. Sedentary behavior commonly occurs during activities such as desk work, watching television, or prolonged sitting without engaging in purposeful physical activity.
Most of us (myself included) vacillate back and forth between times of intense busy-ness and periods of sedentary numbness, but consciously making time for stillness can help to re-energize us and make it easier to step back into the fast-pace of the modern world. So, for me, it's important to intentionally create moments of stillness in my life. I also try to simply notice stillness when it occurs naturally throughout the day.
I experience the most profound stillness when I meditate. My personal practice varies. Sometimes, I use breathwork, visualization, and/or mantra to keep myself grounded and present. Other times, I simply sit in silence for 10-15 minutes. Practicing stillness in this way gives me a chance to calm my nervous system and explore my inner landscape. It's like standing in one place and taking in the scenery instead of seeing it pass by in a blur from the window of a train. It sharpens my view of what's happening in my body and my heart and my mind.
Yet, even in stillness, there is movement. From a distance, a mountain looks still. But if you go hiking in the mountains, you know that there's constant movement. Everywhere. Wind rustling the leaves of the trees. Birds hopping about on branches. Tiny lizards doing push ups on sun-warmed rocks. Ants streaming over decaying leaves.
In the same way, so much moves through me when I sit in stillness. Thoughts scurry through my mind like bushy-tailed squirrels. A river of feelings flows through the center of my heart, sometimes overflowing into the rest of my body. Sensations tickle and prickle under my skin - heat, tingling, aching, softening. And of course, my breath moves rhythmically in and out, carrying me deeper into the canyons of my being.
The opposite is also true - stillness also exists within movement. It's not always as easy to notice or feel, but it's there. I notice stillness when I'm walking in nature and listening to music. And I feel a deep sense of stillness when I practice yoga. Synchronizing movement with my breath is just a different way to meditate. It brings me back to my center and softens the edges of my life, making me feel more calm.
I can't always be in motion, nor can I always be still. It's a balance that I discover and rediscover each day. The interplay between movement and stillness is a dance that I step into, trusting that the tempo will carry me through the rapids and also slow to allow me to float in the silence of my breath.
How does movement show up in your life? Is it exhilarating or exhausting? How often do you allow yourself to rest in stillness? Does it feel like you are able to maintain a good balance between activity and rest? If not, how can you create a better balance?