How often do you allow yourself to sit still? And by "sit still" I mean:
- You're not watching anything.
- You're not reading anything.
- You're not looking at anything on your smart phone or your computer.
- You're not talking to anyone.
- You're not sitting still only because you're waiting for something (e.g., a bus, a doctor's appointment, a stoplight to change, the sandwich you ordered for lunch).
If you're sitting still, you are literally sitting somewhere, silent and unmoving. You are breathing and perhaps thinking, but nothing more. You are sufficing with simple existence. You expect nothing and plan nothing. You just... sit.
Why is it important to let yourself sit still? When we sit still, we enjoy a rare moment alone with ourselves. We have a chance to let our brains and our bodies be unchallenged and at rest, to quietly process the events of our days or our lives, and to simply look around and be where we are now as opposed to worrying about what's going on everywhere else.
Many people use meditation for this purpose. But I'll admit, "meditation" is too ambitious a concept for me. When I attempt to "meditate," I invariably get frustrated at my inability to stay in the elusive "zone" they speak of. When they say "focus on your breath," my brain seems to mistake that as a command to initiate feverish ping-ponging thoughts about anything and everything. So I have given up (for the time being, at least) on meditating in exchange for regularly giving myself permission to sit still.
This is #2 in line, however, because this one — sitting still and doing nothing — is also incredibly difficult for me. First off, heredity isn't on my side. My parents are both notoriously unable to sit still except in the rarest of situations. (Just ask anyone who's ever tried to get my mom to sit down to watch the entirety of a movie, or anyone who's ever tried to keep my dad content when he's not assured ready access to some highly useful project or another.) On evenings and weekends, I can't help constantly self-assigning projects. "Sitting still" outside almost invariably turns into a pressing need to pull visible weeds or go back inside to take care of that one thing I just thought of. Second, I'm an inveterate achiever. I can't stand days when I don't Get Something Done. It makes me disappointed in myself. So I'm trying to initiate a re-branding of "sitting still" as a worthwhile achievement in and of itself.
This week, my body forced me to sit still. My body got sick. I've frequently felt that my body does this precisely when I've been pushing myself too hard. It regards the self-imposed stress and unforgiving schedule and says, "Nuh-uh, honey, I don't think so. That's enough." And so I finally listen — in part because I have no choice — sitting still and letting that be enough.
The other thing is that I've started to think of some fairly good stuff when I let myself sit still. No world-shaking inventions or ideas — just things that make me smile, make me inspired, make me laugh, or make me fully aware of what a beautiful life and family I've built for myself. And in the big picture, that's better for my well-being than anything I can watch, read, scroll through, or hear from anyone else.