The Challenge of Stillness

I’m on the mountain of personal growth, and sometimes I simply climb and climb. The more I climb, the more I grow. Climbing is fun and growth is great, but growing too fast can be disorienting – I can see why I’m leaving behind the old ways that don’t serve me anymore, but I’m not yet familiar with the new ways – with who I am now – who I’ve become, who I’m becoming. I’m following new instincts, based on new reasoning and a retraining of my brain, but my steps are a little shaky and outcomes untested. The unfamiliarity with my own new self can feel uncomfortable, and it is necessary to stop and take the time to become familiar with myself again.

Self-awareness isn’t a one-and-done thing, it’s a lifelong practice. Because every time I grow, there’s a new me to know. And every new me is transient – ready to make way for the next new me – so if I don’t make time to stop and enjoy the view every so often, I could quite possibly miss entire versions of me that were only around for a short while.

Plateaus are stillness for rest and integration.

But not all stillness is rest.

There’s stillness in lying flat on the ground, and stillness in holding a plank. Stillness in the first case is restful. But in the second case, stillness is as challenging as movement. Both types of stillness are a crucial part of doing the work.

I have noticed that I tend to be uncomfortable with uncertainty, especially when this uncertainty takes the form of gaps in action, especially when these gaps in action are for unspecified amounts of time. The growth addict in me cries, “what am I waiting for? There’s so much to do!” and tries to regain control of the situation by forcing movement. (And honestly, sometimes that’s actually not a bad thing to do.)

But at other times (such as when there are other people involved who might need to go at a different pace to myself), it can be quite unhelpful – even damaging – to force action on my terms. It’s at times like those, when there’s a good reason to slow down – when relinquishing control for a time will likely result in better outcomes in the long run – that stillness is most challenging for me. It’s also when stillness is most necessary.

My past instinct around uncomfortable stillness has been to force action, whether that’s pushing for what I want to happen, or abandoning a slow-moving activity in favour of a different one. But what I’m playing with now is the idea of staying with the uncomfortable stillness, practicing radical acceptance around it and paying attention to what it is asking of me. Instead of resisting the stillness or viewing it as a bother, strategizing about how to stay present through it and grow with it. In the same way as I count seconds out loud or find something else to engage my attention while I’m holding a literal plank – turning powerlessness and passivity into presence and play.

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