Stillness & Satisfaction

Within the past few weeks, I have had countless reminders of our growing addiction to the overwhelm. A man managing a stressful full-time job, who was out every night during the week, was concerned that he was being “too lazy” to want to fill a Saturday afternoon with a social event. A frenzied mother shuffling her children in the car for the third time in one day, rushing to their next destination. A woman with two jobs, grown children of her own, and a busy social schedule admitted that she doesn’t feel comfortable sitting still. I confess to having the same affliction. As a self-appointed advocate for self-care, tranquility, and energy it took a week of debilitating back pain and physically incapacitating fatigue for me to finally create space in my schedule to relax for a few hours in my own home.

We humans are not comfortable with calm. Our culture places great value on production and accomplishment. I’m in full favor of both, but we tend to hyperfocus on them. We wear our exhaustion like a badge. Remaining constantly entangled in a self-created juxtaposition, we engulf ourselves in commitments and responsibilities in which we effort to create time to relax. We work tirelessly for vacations that we fill with events. We satiate our schedules with activities to be done during our “leisure time”. We’ve become so entrenched in our own fear of silence that even King Solomon would say “Okay, your hands don’t need to be that busy!”. We are in a 24/7 scarcity spiral. And we suffer many great losses as a result, two of which are satisfaction and stillness.

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to imagine how remaining in a constant state of “never enough” diminishes our levels of satisfaction. What’s interesting about our culture is that we often create this cycle for ourselves arbitrarily. We value production and accomplishment, but don’t recognize the small steps that we take to move forward. For one, we live in a perpetual “If only I could” or “If only I had” relationship with our own happiness. And no matter how many times we play this game, we will never win. When we finally have the house, the money, the partner, and the child that we knew that we needed to be happy, we don’t even see them anymore. Our perceived happiness is focused on the dream car that we’re missing. The “if only”s are endless and will never cease winning until we stop playing. But how do we do that when we are bombarded with images and information every day designed to show us that there is so much that we haven’t yet done or don’t yet have?

One way is to reclaim our stillness. Getting comfortable with our own silence, without worry of criticism or boredom, gives space to release the fear that leads us down the path of overwhelm. And when we allow this space to unplug and disconnect from the to-do and must-have lists, we increase our own happiness and productivity. If you don’t believe me, or science, do your own research. Did you ever notice how some of your best ideas and personal breakthroughs happen in the bathroom while taking a shower or… ahem… elsewhere in the bathroom? It’s not because there are ideas streaming from your shower head or radiating from the seat, it’s because you are allowing time for silence. Unless you’re on your phone, in which case you’re missing out on your own brilliant mind and, honestly… ew… I mean, no judgement, this is your safe space too… but ew.

The point is that it is fully within our power to reclaim moments of stillness and silence within our own lives. And since such an allowance increases our capacity for productivity, it’s not an act of defiance against an accomplishment-driven culture, it’s an assimilation. Contrary to our peripheral beliefs, humans were not created to move at the speed of an alien hedgehog. It is my sincere hope that we someday realize this and collectively slow down. Until that day though, and even when it comes, it is our individual responsibility to create room for our own tranquility.

In that spirit, I offer you two invitations, or two challenges if prefer to work with a goal. The first: Put aside some time each day, or even each week, to be still with yourself without disturbance or distraction. Take time, no matter the length, to sit in your own silence, without judgement. Accept whatever comes up during this time with grace, even the discomfort. The second: start to recognize your “if only”s. Maybe they have a pattern or similarities that are trying to teach you something about yourself. Accept that it is not the missing exterior item or circumstance that needs to be attained for your happiness, those are the Band-Aids. Instead, take a gentle and unprejudiced inventory of what may need to be acknowledged and/or healed within. Then you can work from a place of honestly and acceptance. You can start to recognize what you already have. In time, you can even replace those “if only I had”s with “how lucky I am”s.

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4 thoughts on “Stillness & Satisfaction

  1. I love this because I feel this way all of the time. I always feel like I have to “earn” a break. I especially connected with the idea of wearing my exhaustion like a badge. The worst part is forcing this exhaustion idea on my kids. I am often inclined to give positive feedback when they wear themselves out and are overly taxed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback and honesty. It’s wonderful for you and your children that you are so aware of this pattern. That’s the perfect place to plant the seeds for change!

      Liked by 1 person

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