The Formative Capacity of Stillness
Do you find yourself saying you don’t have any more space in your life for anything? Does it feel as if life is skimming from one moment to the next with no sense of control? There’s a sense of entrapment in the reactions and responses to shifting circumstances. It appears there’s no time to think or plan because you’re too late in response to a world moving faster and faster.
What motivates this entropic state of things? YOU DO. My guess is you don’t have space in your life because honestly, you don’t want any. In fact if you had it, it’d be confronting and stressful. If you got on an airplane and come to find there’s no magazines, no allowance of gadgets, nobody to talk with, just sit and do nothing, you couldn’t relax and be still! You’re so used to be in a love affair with speed, stimulation, and something to do that doing nothing would make you crazy.
And yet, the quality of stillness if accessed is how you nourish yourself and get fed. You then take it in and out back into your life. Rather than just be the doer, you tap into your ground of being, and then act from that activated part of yourself. The nature of the doing then changes from one that is out of reactivity, to one that is born out of a love that generates and animates a deeper intention. It’s as if stillness is an access point to a grander will that has wiser care for more than our selves.
How do you create space? You just do. During the day schedule breaks. A 15 minute pause to stop and reflect will change the entire time period that remains in the day. Renewal from stillness helps the quality of intensity that comes next. This takes practice. Turning your mind “OFF” requires tools.
As you schedule your next 2-3 days off, show up to the day with an intention to be with who you love, go where you love, and do what you love. These days aren’t the end-goal, but the source of pursuing a goal. You start your week on Sunday, not Monday. That means you begin your week with stillness, love, relaxation, fun, playfulness, and living life to the fullest. Then you carry it over into the following days.
Blue Sky time is time set aside for deep reflection, let go and drift, and maintain a relationship to the awareness of the big picture. This sounds like going against the norm for most people because they judge themselves on how hard they work instead of how great they rest. Resting in our society is considered lazy.
Is sleeping lazy? Our lives depend on sleep. It is the most basic form of renewal and rejuvenation. We cannot function without sleep, just like we cannot function without being still. Sleep influences that quality of our thinking, our energy, and our creativity. Ask anyone who is under-slept and they’ll tell you that everyone else seems stupid. “How could they know that I didn’t get enough sleep, you ask?”
When we work longer hours we reach fatigue that leads to more mistakes. These lead to messes and damages in our life that require more and more reactivity and distraction, which leads to less and less restfulness and more stress. But when we rest in the middle of things, we have an inflection point to shift our capability completely to new levels of performance. Downtime is just as important as prime time. Ask any athlete or entertainer, they live by this notion.
Nonetheless, I suggest two 24 hour periods per month are geared to do this. It’s also a time to gather what is actually going on. These days are moments of awareness to stay with what is amazing or surprising you in your life right now. Or to deepen your connection to what is challenging you beyond the familiar. Pay attention to what has meaning for you; what is touching or moving you in your life now.
As you take stock of these aspects, you begin to draw connections between the current reality and the future you seek to bring into being. These moments of reflection are gateways to draw forth the “gems” of life itself that help you listen to what is emerging. Start a reflection journal and develop your ability to slow down, rest, and take a deeper look at what is going on. You’ll escape the tendency to ignore the present moment, sense it, and actualize an emerging future possibility that is ready to begin.
One of the key learning opportunities in my Blue Sky Time is seeing my own contributions to the consequences that I experience from it. I see the circularity between my thoughts and perceptions and my current reality. My questions is “what motivated this current set of conditions I have?” Indeed there are patterns at play organized by a series of decisions headed up by habitual judgments that I tend to make.
For example, I see that in my marriage my partner stops telling me what is going on inside her feelings. What is motivating her not to feel safe and what are my enactments in that state of protection? As I step back and open my eyes, I recognize my assumption that if I knew the truth, I’d feel unable to handle it. That I don’t trust myself to know how to handle her truth. I then see another assumption inside this one – that I need to fix or have a solution for whatever she tells me she is feeling.
What I notice is that I don’t want to be told the truth, to accomplish another commitment that actually undermines my desire to have a living truth with her. If I unearth and let go of that competing commitment, what’s left is just being available and to listen to her with presence. This reflection helps me see how I’m “response-able” in this scenario. I could challenge my underlying concept, and redirect my attention to the truth. What would be possible if I let go of my belief? First, I’d tend to acknowledge her feelings as valid instead of being afraid and draw her out, to foster a new level of intimacy.
In the western world, time is the adversary, but in the east, time is an advocate. In developing countries this is certainly the case. To shift our paradigm to foster the capacity to create, we can adopt a quality view of time instead of a quantity one. In the quality view, reality (now time), because place for use to see relationships which are organizing what is going on. This is the nature of the oriental view. The occidental view is reduced to seeing one thing. In contrast the other view is one of seeing without any fixation on one aspects. We see within a flow pattern of energy and information organized between relationships. We begin to see that properties are positioned by patterns of interaction.
Recently I had a CEO tell me about a declining sales trend in his organization. After blue sky time he begin to see a systems view of what was actually going on. He could link decisions, actions, communications, and events into a perpetually interlinked story. He could then determine where and what to change to shift the tendency of the structure at play.
Start a morning ritual of focused stillness and intentional grounding. Begin you day with a form of meditation, where you simple breathe and disassociate with all your habitual thoughts coming at you. The morning ritual is the way to carry your Sunday relaxation time over throughout your week. Yes it’ll compete with other priorities, but you can choose to make it one. If you’re access this stillness, put the responsibility of creating these moments in your hands, not circumstances or another person/boss/friend/other. If you give yourself energy, you’ll have this energy available to use later. Fill your tank with stillness. Then step into the next moment.
Begin an evening ritual of turning all screens off 1 hour before bedtime. Do not eat during this time either. Just read a book, listen to soft music, or take a bath. Remember, the only effort needed is to make less effort. Don’t be too busy being busy to do what could make you a lot less frantic and busy. If you want space, create space. If you’re not able to, ask yourself what you believe to be true—you don’t think you have any time, and that’s why you don’t. We all have 24 hours don’t we? The same amount? But with your belief, even if you had it, you wouldn’t use it wisely, you’d just do something to get it done.
Last thought..you’ll never check everything off your to-do list, never! And it’s never less busy later on that it is now, that’s a necessary lie. You can choose to organize your time by what matters, or by circumstances, that is a fundamental choice you make in terms of your orientation to your terms with life. You either live in a creative or reactive orientation, and the choice is yours whenever you choose.
Copyright 2013 John Davidson