When I first started writing this post I started to entitle it, “In Praise of Slow,” but then I remembered that title was already taken. I remembered where I saw that title was from an extremely good TED talk by Carl Honore. You can see that TED talk over here and I highly recommend that you do. He discusses how the US and the rest of the world are joining “The Cult of Speed” and he invites all of us to slow down our lives.
I am finding this to be very true in my own life.
For a long time, I found that I judged my own value and worth by how busy I stayed. It could be busy at home, busy at work, busy at school, or busy at church. I wanted to be more and more and more busy to fill my time. I thought to be successful was to have every minute accounted for and then figuring out how to fit even more into that space.
And then I came to a jarring realization.
I was seeking ‘busy’ because slowing down would require I think and ponder and consider. Listening would require I go places in my mind and heart that I’ve closed up for a very long time. I didn’t want to go there. Who really wants to go there? I stayed busy so I wouldn’t have to ask myself the hard questions.
Over the last year or so I have been finding myself going in the opposite direction. Instead of seeking busy, I am seeking stillness.
I do the same things that I used to do. I still keep the house the same and run our homeschool like I always did. Exercise is on daily docket and my work projects are growing. But, the difference is that I am not rushing from one the thing to the next. There are checklists and goals aplenty but I consider my time and my effort a lot more closely. I don’t jump on opportunities to fill my time. I pray and consider my family before I commit.
I should pause for a moment to explain the difference between “good stillness (or slowness)” and “bad stillness.”
I believe it is because of the “bad stillness” that people, including me, find it hard to slow down. We think that slowing down means being lazy and non-productive. There is a good reason for that but it doesn’t have to be true. You can, indeed, slow down and be just as productive and dare I say, more productive than before. That is the “good stillness” and slowness.
About three years ago, my family moved to a new city.
It was a good but jarring move. We moved from the country to a major metropolitan area and we moved knowing only one other family. Throw in homeschooling and you get a recipe for a lot of stillness. Yes, we were all intentional about getting out there, meeting new people, and getting involved. It just takes time to find your tribe.
Unfortunately, I did not embrace the gift of stillness as much right after that move. I felt unproductive and lazy and longed to be plugged in and busy. Honestly, I was running away from my own thoughts. I was seeking distraction.
This is where to story changes.
I was seeking distraction that did not come fast enough. That forced me to do the soul work that so desperately needed to be done. It was done kicking and screaming but it was done nonetheless.
And then the unexpected happened.
The stillness I was trying to avoid for so long became what I was seeking all along. Click To Tweet
I learned I shouldn’t jump on opportunities because they are there but I should prayerfully consider how my time can be best used. It was being able to strategically choose activities that made all the difference.
I can give a much better “YES” that is not tired but willing, able, and excited.
Where do I say YES?
In my busy time, I rarely sat down to read. I wouldn’t even slow down enough to enjoy a lighthearted novel.
Now I seek out a time of reading every day and I attempt to vary my reading with fiction, non-fiction, leadership, and self-development books. If I don’t take my reading time each day then I know that something needs to give in my schedule. I need my reading time for growth and stillness.
Running – Marathon
Believe it or not, running is very much a part of my dedication to stillness. While I am not physically still, I have found that running calms my mind. And when I have a calm mind I can allow space for the big, fun, and perhaps even, scary thoughts to grow. Since I am training for a marathon I have plenty of time to think those thoughts and to listen to audiobooks.
Service At Church
Serving at church is non-negotiable. By giving my better YES to my church I am giving back to those who have loved and supported me and helped me to grow in my walk with my Savior.
Because I am not running around like crazy I am able to say YES to being a tutor in my son’s homeschool group. I am able to pour myself even more into my son’s education all while pouring into other kids as well. And I get an education right alongside them as well.
Finally, I am able to be available for my son and his activities. I was available when I was going full force after busy but with the focus on stillness, I am can be fully available. Being available in mind and in the body allows engagement and involvement instead of merely chauffering around to all the numerous activities.
Over the last year, I have learned that stillness is really just a state of mind.
It is not necessarily literally being still and quiet all the time. While being still and quiet is pretty awesome at times, this state of mind means being intentional about your activities. I may look busy from the outside but my mind is still because everything is well considered first. Gone are the days of busy.
How do you seek stillness in your life?
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash