Archives for posts with tag: seeking stillness

I am sitting quietly, sipping coffee, on a Sunday morning. Does’t feel like “the end of the weekend”, because it isn’t; I’ve got tomorrow off for the Memorial Day holiday. This feels, instead, like a proper “day of leisure”, and I am enjoying it quite gently. Perhaps I’ll garden later? For now, I am reading emails, reading the news, and contemplating questions. Big questions, small questions – there are a ton of questions worth asking. Many of them have achievable answers worth having, some of them have more power and enlightenment to offer in the asking, itself. To sort out which are which, I sit idly, asking the questions, considering the answers, and hoping to know more at some point in the future than I do right now, or at least to gain the wisdom to recognize sufficiency, even in the realm of knowledge.

Maybe I “get there”, maybe I don’t; either way, this is a good cup of coffee. ūüôā

Be present. Listen deeply.

Early evening, in autumn, golden sunlight filtering through the vertical blinds over the patio door, me fussing a bit, somewhat uneasy, headache-y, annoyed. I am not sipping coffee; it is too late in the day for that, unless I’m planning to be awake all night. This is a fairly noisy time of day, here, even in the relative quiet of my comfortable space. I can nearly always hear the traffic on the commuter thoroughfare 100 yards away (ish). ¬†Today the background noise isn’t in the background at all. Contractors are using power saws, hammers, drills, pry bars, and talking loudly all around the outside of my apartment. The noise is well-beyond what could be considered comfortable without hearing protection.

I came home from work to finish the workday in a quieter space; I’m feeling irritable, a tad stressed, and extremely sound-sensitive. There is no quiet to be had here, and the headache I arrived home with, hoping to feel dissipate quickly upon arrival in this chill safe space, now commands my attention from my lower back, on up across my shoulders, up my neck and over my skull, coming to rest as a sensation of tightness in my head, and teeth clenched, neck aching. I am numb to most of anything else going on just at the moment, wanting only to alleviate the pain in my spine, my neck, my head. My tender heart finds its own way to misery; I kick myself while I’m down, resenting the attention I am giving to my physical pain, when there are tears lurking so near to my eyes, waiting to spill out. I suspect my heart doesn’t quite understand that there’s nothing really wrong, I just hurt, and the noise is hard to bear. I promise myself that once the contractors are gone, I will soak in a long hot Epsom salt bath, then linger in a luxurious shower, indulging myself with the sensuous pleasure to be had in hair washing, and the simple sensations of warm water and lovely scents, listening to music I enjoy. It’s not ‘everything’ – how much ever is? It is, perhaps, enough – and enough will do nicely.

How 'real' is all this stress? What's it really made of?

How ‘real’ is all this stress? What’s it really made of?

So much for a change of perspective! In the moments when I hurt most, the practices that sooth me best can seem subtly out of reach. That’s very frustrating, and sometimes even ‘unreasonably difficult’. The noise is very nearly unbearable, and it is a physical feeling of its own. Hard to describe. Painful. Enraging. It’s quieter now, and later. I’ve taken time for a chat with my traveling partner. Had a bite of dinner. Did what I could to care for this fragile vessel in any way I can…any way that isn’t dependent on quiet, I mean. Quiet is just not available at the moment, even with ear plugs in.

I’ve gotten past the anger, frustration, disappointment, and yes even emotional hurt of getting home to find, instead of a quiet sanctuary, noise. A lot of noise. Irritating, ceaseless… wait… That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? This is the hard part.¬†The part where practice shows off what has been built over time? This isn’t a drill, people!! It’s doesn’t matter what I expect. Preparation helps – but the map is not the world. The plan is not the experience. What I think is not to be confused with what is. ¬†Learning the distinction between acceptance and futility has been a difficult bit of life’s curriculum for me. I hurt so much right now, there is real effort in refusing to yield to anguish, in¬†drawing in line in the behavioral sand, so to speak, and finding the balance between taking care of me¬†devotedly, and simply taking care, graciously, compassionately, understanding with some perspective that we all suffer with things like noise. I still hurt – but I haven’t lashed out at any of the carpenters, or my landlady, or the neighbor’s well-meaning child, or …well… you get my point. There’s no ‘easy’ to this piece of the journey, I do hurt, and the noise is making me just fucking crazy with irritation. I still have choices;¬†focusing on the easy ones and excluding the difficult ones¬†also¬†limits my outcomes.

I take time to do some yoga. I breathe. I meditate with a warm cup of chamomile tea in my hands, warming my fingers and soothing me, enjoying the fragrant steam rising up from the mug.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

There are moments beyond the noise. I can reach them; there are verbs involved. Not easy? No. Not easy. Still worth it. Still practicing.

There are all sorts of details I could have handled better today – but I handled things well enough, and I’ve taken care of me generally, and done so pretty well. I’ve taken care of the things most needing my attention, and I’ve put off some things that can comfortably wait for me to get to them another time. Success isn’t always obvious, or profitable, or heroic – sometimes it’s measured as ‘enough’. I’m okay with that – and I’m okay right now.

The morning unfolds gently, quietly, slowly – and I am at home, not camping. I woke in the comfort of my bed, rather than waking in agony, stiff, and struggling to get my bones up off the ground. I have entirely deviated from any semblance of planning for the weekend – and I am also entirely okay with that; what I need from me with this time can be had right here, and figuring out how to get it here at home is a worthy endeavor, itself.

Although I was packed up and ready for my weekend in the trees, Thursday quickly went sideways once I confirmed that literally every reservable tent camping space within a 3 hour drive had been reserved. Frustrated by the outcome of my own lack of advance planning, I sat down with my thoughts to get my bearings, and check traffic for the route to the state park I was most inclined to drive to, figuring I might take my chances on a non-reservable space still being available so close to a choice summer camping weekend. The traffic was reported to be terrible (making a 45 minute drive nearly 2 hours). I became more fully aware of how much pain I was in. Camping seemed much less appealing than it had only days before.

Cats have a good idea what to do with their leisure time.

Cats have a good idea what to do with their leisure time.

Adulthood does have one clear advantage over childhood, and although I capitalize on it less¬†often than I could, I sure did on Thursday – I straight up owned being adult, and grabbed hold of the “I can do whatever I want” opportunity. I revisited my entire weekend plan, over a very tasty cup of coffee – no bed time – and decided on a series of day hikes fairly nearby, ones that are difficult to reach on public transit (taking advantage of having my traveling partner’s car for the weekend). I considered other things that appeal to me, that I can’t easily do most weekends (due to the limitation of not having a car, myself), and also made plans to visit favorite local places that are generally just out of reach.

My Thursday evening was very relaxed, and focused on caring for myself, and indulging simple pleasures. I turned off the technology, even my phone. I put the stereo on sounds of rainfall – hours of it that I have recorded myself over the years, drowning¬†out the sounds of the world outside as well as I could. It was, after all, the stillness that I was seeking most aggressively with this time… wait… what? Something nagged at me, even then…

There is something about being alone out in the trees, walking, awake, aware, and on my own journey.

There is something about being alone out in the trees, walking, awake, aware, and on my own journey.

Friday was very pleasant. My long hike on the trails through Tryon Creek Park was quite lovely, and refreshing, and…lovely. I could still hear the sounds of traffic with every step, and never did escape the continuous awareness of the presence of humanity. Was that what I was looking for? If so – did I understand how unrealistic a goal it was? (Rather like chasing ‘happily ever after’.) I felt a subtle aggravation with the experience, that coexisted with the pleasure of walking among the trees, along the creek, on paths that twisted, turned, climbed, dropped, and winded among trees of surprising age, and the lush dense greens of forest that I definitely had been seeking for comfort and nourishment.

This is my journey. Your results may vary.

This is my journey. Your results may vary.

I took both perspectives on the experience home with me. A bite of lunch, and a cup of coffee later and I was off again – headed down the road to where there are lovely roses to be had; it was on my mind to restore my patio garden to its own lushness, after weeks of sweltering heat, and to replace roses that had been carelessly lost more than a year ago, during a winter storm when I was out of town. Several of my favorite miniature roses in containers, that I had brought with me when I moved in, had died. I don’t think anyone else noticed, or cared, but it bothered me greatly and I missed them here at Number 27. I spent Friday afternoon gardening – another activity I find soothing, uplifting, and restoring. Friday was quite wonderful.

“The Sorcerer” – selected for my garden as an homage to love’s magic in my life.

Evening came, and that was when the various sensations, ideas, and perspectives collided while I was meditating; I was seeking stillness by running from the noise. It was a needed ‘aha!’ moment. I was ‘filling my time’ instead of actually embracing the possible stillness. It’s an easy mistake to make, but ineffective; I take myself with me everywhere I go. If the stillness I seek would be within, then the noise I am attempting to escape may¬†similarly be within me; running won’t get me very far from myself. It wasn’t that the time was wasted, or that the investment in self-care and things I enjoy is a mistake; I enjoyed my time, and it was well-spent – but it wasn’t going to get me any closer to the stillness I know I am needing.

This morning I woke early, and returned to sleep. It’s not possible to over-state the value of adequate rest. When I woke, I didn’t turn on the computer, the stereo, or the noise of the world. I showered in mindful silence, feeling the sensations, and being present. I took my time with my morning yoga, being patient with myself, and focused on the moment and each movement. I made my coffee with great care, and without wandering off to do something else during the process. One mindful task at a time, and no attempt to ‘multi-task’. I permit myself no distractions this morning. Over time, my ‘thinker’ has shoved my ‘observer’ out of the driver’s seat far too often for my good emotional health, and like a restless child, my ‘thinker’ wants to be on the move all the time. It’s a playground for my demons, and I am quickly overwhelmed by the noise – I had forgotten that the noise is most often entirely within, and similarly within my ability to silence the din. Chasing the stillness by running from the noise is not the most effective practice for finding the stillness.


I’m not the first to cover this ground; other thinkers and seekers of stillness have been here before me, each having our own experience.

So here it is, today. I am at home. It is a quiet morning. I have choices – most of them come down to choosing to embrace the stillness I am seeking, or to run from the noise (and no doubt getting things done along the way, but definitely not finding the stillness). ¬†A very good practice, I find, for embracing stillness is the practice of sitting still (literally that simple) – no stereo, no video, no conversation, no guided meditation – just sitting, quietly, breathing, aware of the sounds around me, aware my breath, filled with awareness itself – it sounds easy, but the restlessness and noise within want very much to be indulged, and it sometimes requires repeatedly returning to the present moment, setting aside distracting thoughts to breathe again, to be aware of the sounds without judgement or evaluation. We are coached all our lives to be productive, to refrain from ‘daydreaming’, and to maintain an active presence in the world. Sitting still requires practice.

Sometimes it seems necessary to find just the right place for sitting still...this too, is a distraction.

Sometimes it seems necessary to find just the right place for sitting still…this too, is a distraction.

Whatever else I may do with my time today, I will be doing it gently, mindfully, and savoring each precious moment.

It may be necessary to stand still long enough for stillness to catch up to me. :-)

It may be necessary to stand still long enough for stillness to catch up to me. ūüôā

I’ll let the stillness come to me.

I woke with a headache, still managing to be eager to face my journey – both metaphysical, and geographical; I’m headed to the coast.

Sky, sand, and a distant horizon.

Sky, sand, and a distant horizon.

There’s something about being on the shore of the ocean, either ocean really, but the one on the left side is easier to reach at the present. I’ll take a few days, celebrate the changing season, walk, meditate, write, do some yoga on the beach and not notice that I’m not a lean hard-bodied yogi under 30 all strong core, tan skin, and toned muscles; it’ll feel amazing. There is so much living that is not about appearances at all, however cool it looks in a photograph.

I will write; I am hoping to finish a manuscript. I will meditate – at this point that goes without saying (lol). I will take some pictures and enjoy capturing the world through a camera lens, while I contemplate the way I view it through the less well-defined lens of my own experience, through my all-to-human eyes.

The headache is nothing much to bother with, I think I am a tad dehydrated, and I’m alternating water and coffee this morning to get past it. It astounds me what a huge piece ‘taking care of me’ a simple drink of water is! I pause for a moment to reflect what an advancement clean drinking water is, and how many people in the world don’t have even that most basic of resources readily available in the 21st century.

Today is a good day to make a journey. Today is a good day to be kind. Today is a good day to treat myself well, and enjoy the moment. Today is a good day to change the world.