Just Be Still
A little after noon on May 1, 2016, I was trying to get a quick 30-minutes of exercise in by running on a hiking trail at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia. I had had a busy morning of getting work-related stuff accomplished, then I headed out after lunch to go run so that I could get home, get showered, and get to my afternoon sessions. After my sessions, the busy-ness was scheduled to continue: I had an evening planned of quickly cooking, finishing up some house work, and then trying to have some time to spend with the kids.
Busy. Busy. Busy. Accomplish. Accomplish. Accomplish.
Jump through the hoops of that to-do list, Jesse.
As I ran on that trail, I could feel the weight of my packed schedule. I felt rushed. I could feel the energetic action in my body. The busy-ness in my bones. While exercising (especially in nature), I often take time to connect to intuition and higher power/higher self, and this day was no different. As I ran down the hill, I contemplated my internal state and frustration: "Why do I have this? What can I possibly do?" I felt my intuition--that connection-- provide an immediate answer: "You're not balanced. You're not slowing down. You need to take time to be still."
I looked up at the trees and scoffed. Then I said loudly in a mocking tone, "Yeah right. Be still? Ain't nobody got time for that."
And it was at that exact moment that I jumped down the winding trail, catching my foot on a root, hearing an unpleasant POP in my ankle, then fell to the ground.
And there I lay. In pain. In stillness. I had sprained my ankle. I tried to get up. I tried to put weight on my ankle and realized that I couldn't. I looked down and saw, that even within a few seconds, my ankle was already swelling noticeably. In my pain, I actually started laughing, and yelled back at the forest, "Alright... I got the message."
After that, my plans for the day just disintegrated. My work sessions got replaced with an ER visit. My running shoes got replaced with crutches. My carefully made dinner plans got replaced with Little Caesar's pizza. Suddenly, my busy-ness got replaced with a life on the coach with ice on my ankle.
It's almost as if life spoke up and said "No time for stillness, eh?"
That was a little over four years ago, and yet, recently I found myself in the same situation. My practice of stillness wore off sometime in the past couple of months, and it got replaced more and more with the go-go-go of life. My weekdays were busy from necessity. My weekends were busy by choice.
And I had lost intentionality around stillness. And then, in an event of history slowly repeating itself, life began intervening. It started with the faint whispers of tendonitis in my knee again. Then an allergic reaction on my forearm. Then plantar fasciitis in both feet.
And yet, I continued trying to fill every waking moment with action.
Then last week, I was talking to a friend about all this. I was feeling impatient with these constant ailments. I needed my body to keep up with the speed of my life. In my frustration, I asked "Why is my body rebelling?" My friend pulled a random tarot card for me and said "The four of swords. Jesse, there's not much more to say about that."
There's that life lesson again: Learning to be still.
How often do we need to hear this? How often do we need that four of swords to show up in our lives, softly suggesting us to begin embracing the silence? How often do we need to be beckoned to take a break and to be intentional with our stillness? I won't pretend that I'm not a high energy individual, and I'm certain that my own disposition lends itself to a certain struggle with stillness. But I also believe that the greater society within our country encourages constant activity. The age we live in encourages constant knowledge and movement. Immediacy. Accomplishment. Accomplishment. Accomplishment. Our lives packed with a steady stream of knowledge, activity, and entertainment. But we have to learn stillness. For me, this is looking like more intentional stillness through meditation. More intentional breaks from action. More intentional boundaries around the constant stream of work, tasks, to-do lists, and accomplishments. For me, it's about the intention of stillness.
And maybe intention of stillness is missing for you, too. But depending on who you are, your intention might need to look differently. Your stillness might look more like vacation. It might look like boundaries around social obligations. It might look time for the quieter side of self-care. It might look like breathing breaks at work. It might look like time to sit and contemplate. It might look silent prayer or sitting in the stillness of the night. So, I challenge you to join me on this journey. Where is your stillness? Ask yourself what the four of swords would look like in your life? Do you need vacation? Do you need meditation? Do you need to let that obligation go? Do you need to set boundaries around your work life? No one wants life to forcefully slow them down. And yet, that's the inevitable destination if we don't learn stillness.
Life will get our attention. Life will happen. Life will slow us down. Better to embrace stillness than to experience forced stillness!
So, here's your challenge:
find your break from the busy-ness,
breathe in the silence,
focus on rest, and Embrace the stillness.