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Today, as often happens after much activity, I had a moment where I wanted, and needed quiet. More accurately, I hear this voice in my head which says, “I need to sit a minute.” But when I sit, I then become restless for lack of something to do, so then I usually engage in an activity that is quiet, like crocheting. While these moments of quiet are useful, they never full restore me nor fully get me to pause, and I end up back in the hamster wheel of – must keep moving. Today, was different though, because right after I heard the, “I need to sit a minute” voice, I heard a new voice, which said, “you need stillness, which means you need to meditate!” Where did that new voice come from? I had just been listening to Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection (Kindle preview), on the difference between calm and stillness and the importance of both. I have up until now resisted meditation as a regular practice, but it now occurs to me that I was likely resistant to the practice because of how I was framing it. Stillness, as Brown defines it, “is not about focusing on nothingness; it is about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally chatter-free space allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question” (p 108). I had not thought of stillness like that before, nor had I thought of meditation as creating this “emotionally chatter-free space.” I tend to need these moments of stillness after moments of emotional activity, making it now obvious that what I needed was stillness. But I was mistaking my need to sit a minute for needing calm and that wasn’t restoring me. Calm and quiet wasn’t restoring me because, according to Brown, calm is about “creating perspective and mindfulness, while managing emotional reactivity” (p 106) [emphasis added]. These needed moments of sitting a minute weren’t coming in the middle of emotional reactivity, or necessarily after such a moment either, but rather were coming after moments of emotional exhaustion. The last thing I need is to manage my emotions in these moments. Stillness gives us a break from our emotions, which is restorative after emotional exhaustion. So, today, I tried stillness instead of my usual quiet and calm and found myself restored at the end. Now that I see meditation in a new frame – a new light, so to say – I feel more confident that I will continue to work on practicing formal meditations, instead of just reading about them. How do you practice stillness?
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