Saturday, April 14, 2007
On the Virtues of Sitting Still
Yes, I've been sitting still and resting a lot because of the chemotherapy, but, inspired by Philip Simmons' book Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life again, I want to say a few words in praise of slowing down, sitting still, and discovering our own internal quiet rhythm. I am also happy to say that on this Saturday morning (Patty's birthday!), I find myself rejoining the world of functional adults. I was up and making her breakfast waffles (which turned into pancakes, but that's another story) and was able to stay focused without needing to lay down. That feels like an accomplishment!
Simmons is in a unique position to discuss the virtues of slowing down and sitting still, because his illness, Lou Gehrig's disease, took away over time his choice about movement. The disease robs the body of an ability to use the nervous system, and over time, results in a shutting down of voluntary and involuntary muscles. In this wonderful book, Simmons weaves his own experience with observations of nature and spiritual teachings to share his reflections and what he has learned as his body has slowly stopped obeying his will. I mentioned in an earlier post that our church book group has been reading and discussing this over Lent (and we're not quite done yet). I missed Wednesday night's discussion because I lacked the energy to sit through the discussion, but the focus was on sitting still, slowing down, and finding that place inside that would dictate our rhythms more if we just let them. At one point, Simmons point out that "our challenge is to do nothing in the midst of our doing, to let our actions issue from a still center, to find within ourselves what T. S. Eliot called 'the still point of the turning world.'"
Sitting still is about being quiet and more than that. It's tuning in to ourselves, and finding what nurtures and speaks to us.
Before I was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer, I was a too-busy professional adult and parent, like so many in our culture. One thing I have remembered in these months since my diagnosis is the virtue of sitting quietly, and for me, observing nature is a valuable way of recharging and getting in touch with that still point.
From the time I built my first water garden, about a dozen years ago, I loved to sit by the water, watch the fish, listen to the sounds the water makes rushing and flowing, and just being quiet inside. No lists, no worries about what was undone, just quietly sitting.
Today the sun is shining and it is warmer than it's been (maybe 50 degrees?). I just sat out by the water garden and took these pictures. The fish are stirring, bringing their bright orange, yellow, white and black movements to the water. The water has cleared, and I can see a snail making its slow path, and occasionally a lazy frog swimming through the water. Watching them, I can allow myself to think of nothing else but being there, alive, noticing that spring is finally beginning, and that life goes on.
This week on gray, stormy days, I sat inside and watched the birds flying and eating at the bird feeders. The greatest delight was to see that goldfinches have shed their winter coat, and grown a beautiful lemony yellow spring covering. They were bright spots of color in a dreary gray-brown backdrop. The cardinal would come and add his bright red color as well.
I hope each of you will consider the virtues of sitting still and finding your center, whether it is in meditation, nature, or some engrossing quiet activity that takes you out of yourself. And please don't worry that I'm overdoing it today! It's about time for my mid-day nap!