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!


Anonymous said...

Some of my most rejuvenating moments are sitting still...and in the quiet. I can't think straight when there is too much busy noise in my world and makes me cranky. I can't say that I was always a person who could sit still and stop the flow of "to do" thoughts...and "where to" thoughts. As a matter of fact...when I took my first teaching job up in Pugwash, Nova Scotia....I was the brunt of a lot of jokes and ribbing. Being a young 'un right out of a bustling college campus....I would sit in my little Wallace Bay farmhouse and my foot would be a-shakin' away !!! friend Brenda would laugh and say "Where are you going, girl??" ...and laugh because...we were in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary...and on "the edge of the earth" I used to call it.
I have to tell you...that after awhile.....during that year...I learned how to relax and sloooow down. Life up there was just so wonderfully relaxing and slow. People were in no hurry to rush here and there. I was on a 12-party line..and my telephone bill came pinned together with a common pin!! ( no lie!)
When a close friend from the States came to visit me... we were playing cards and drinking jasmine was about 10pm when she suddenly looked up at me and said..."Seven"....and I said .."Seven?? Seven what??" thinking she was making some sort of weird card bid. She smiled and said "Um...that was only the seventh car I've heard pass by all day!!!" Imagine!
Yes...from that experience I took with me the realization that upon returning to the States...I was the HEALTHIEST I had felt in a long long time!!
I also found the return to my parent's house in W.Spfld to be horrendous. I could hear constant traffic and sirens, when I turned off the was STILL light in the room from the street lights, and people were in SUCH a rush and always seemed so....angry..and impatient!
I do try to find the calm.
I love sitting in the kitchen in the morning, and watching Laura walk down the path to the school bus....ponytail swinging as she chats with her little friend from next door. I can hear the clock tick...and actually...even the slow breathing of our dog ( loud breather!...what can I say?? LOL)
The noises from the pasture...and the birds.
Yes...I love the stillness..and strive to keep it in my usually busy, hectic life!!
The pics of your fish pond are lovely!! What a wonderful spot to contemplate the beauty of this world!!
What is that saying...?....I don't even know where it is from..
"Be still and know."...
See you soon I hope!!
big hugs!

Anonymous said...

you sound much better in spirit today, lynne- it is good to hear the strength return to your "voice"- i am reminded of times when i take the time to be still, and your post makes me want for more of those times- i think the spring sun today helped me to think of quiet times, and of hope for the summer sun- no doubt that will all be "washed away" in the coming days of teeming rainfall-
thanks for this reminder, lynne-
praying as always-

Anonymous said...

Thank you, dear friend, for another beautiful lesson.