In Praise of Stillness
I'm a big fan of stillness.
I will sit in my lawn chair blissfully staring at the tip of my fishing rod for hours, focused on an interaction between a fish and my minnow, transmitted through a hundred feet of fishing line to the spot where it enters the first guide of my rod. To the uninitiated, this might seem a monotonous, dreadfully dreary activity, but to me it is everything but.
In stillness I strengthen.
When my internal world becomes too cluttered, noisy, confusing, and enervating, my body begins to send me warning signals. My left eyebrow starts to twitch. My heart tightens, racing ever so slightly to let me know that it's there. Fatigue descends rapidly; subtlety be damned. As these warning flags start blowing, I walk to my office door - if that's where I am - gently squeeze it shut, turn off the light, grab my tube pillow, lie down on my side on the floor, and descend into stillness. Sometimes I sleep for five minutes, other times I just slow my heartbeat down and enjoy the precious pause.
We were on a lunch break during a strategic planning day for Leadership Wood Buffalo and stillness was calling.
"I'm just going to shut my eyes for a few minutes," I said, sitting in a plush chair positioned around a large table in the academic conference room at Keyano College.
I clasped my hands together, nestled my head on the side of the plush chair back, and descended into stillness. Conversations faded into the background as I fell into a deep sleep, sitting right there at the table. Five, maybe ten minutes later, I calmly opened my eyes and returned to the world.
Stillness can be found, no matter where you are.
I have often expressed gratitude for my ability to cat nap. to steal a few minutes of sleep and recharge my physiological batteries. I know this is not possible for a lot of people. This practice has sustained me at various points throughout my life.
In the early days of my career as a program director, I would arrive at the radio station by 3:30 am to begin the preparation process for a show that started at 5:00 am. Another announcer would take over at 9:00 am and I would go into my office, close the door, grab a piece of floor and descend into stillness and sleep before starting the administrative portion of my workday.
I was never a farmer, though I come from farming stock. My uncle Lloyd, along with my grandfather Alex, would get up at the crack of dawn to start combining in the mad rush to get the crops in the bins while the weather was good. Aunty and Grandma would prepare lunch and bring it out to whatever field they were working on, laying out the spread on a couple of blankets in the shade. The men would eat, then tip their hats over their eyes and slip into stillness, as the ladies chattered on and the children screamed, laughed and played around.
My dad has that similar ability, preferring to lie down on the living room sofa after a hearty meal, staying in the middle of the action to find his stillness. Some of my brothers and nephews are similar, able to grab a piece of carpet and drift off to sleep amid the fray.
I appreciate the stillness, and acquiesce to its calling whenever I can, knowing that resistance is futile. Stillness soothes, sustains, supports. It brings balance to the universe, steadies the course, and nourishes the soul.