Could You Use 20 Minutes of Stillness?

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I probably use this blog to harp on about my busy life a little too much. We’re all busy, right? You don’t have time to read about someone else’s busy-ness. But that’s my life, which I’ve had to accept. At least I can say that I never get bored. December seems even more crammed with obligations than November – or maybe that’s how it always feels when you’re living in the middle of it.

There are times when I am so busy that I don’t realize how much my kids are growing. Then someone points it out, and I realize that they are big. What happened? How did I miss it? I have to remind myself that I need to slow down and be with them. No, I don’t really want to line up all of our toy cars and count them, but my three-year-old does, and as long as he still wants me to sit with him, I should take advantage of it instead of throwing this opportunity away.

Still, there are many nights when I have the best intentions only to realize that it’s past their bedtimes, and we still haven’t read or done something fun together. If only I could just slow down and be present for a while, then maybe it wouldn’t feel like I’m living with they’re-growing-up-too-fast-itis.

This past week, I was forced to slow down when I had my first acupuncture session. My doctor kept up a steady dialogue while she was placing the needles, I suppose to keep me from focusing on what she was doing. She asked for advice on finding the perfect home-baked something to give to her two very different neighbors. We talked a lot about our dietary lifestyles, which have a lot to do with treating the hypothyroidism from which we both suffer. I was settling in to enjoy a nice conversation.

But with all the needles in place, she turned off the lights, gave me a bell to ring if I needed anything, and told me she would be back in 20 minutes or so.

My first reaction was to wonder what in the world I would do for 20-or-so minutes. And I had no way to track the time; I wasn’t wearing my watch because there were needles in my wrist, nor did I have my phone. All I had was me and some needles on this cushioned table in a little room. What in the world was I supposed to do?

If I had been at home instead of on that table, there’s no way I would have just lain down with no stimulation except for the darkened room around me and outside noises. I would have gotten up every couple of minutes to do something or other. My parents should have named me Martha.

Instead, when I had no choice but to be still, my body grew calm and comfortable – a gift that I very much needed in the middle of a very hectic month.

There are so many people I know who push themselves past the limit, especially this time of year. On the one hand, many of them have to because of their particular jobs, but on the other, staying so busy and so stressed eventually takes its toll. Last year, my mother’s body succumbed to a vicious virus right after Christmas because her body gave up when it finally had the chance to slow down.

Sometimes, the only way our bodies can grab our attentions is to force us to stop. The busy-ness… well, it can wait.

And I guess waiting is hard for people like me because we want to stay active. We always want to move forward, to do something. Slowing down isn’t just a luxury but almost a sin.

Except that the stillness is healing, reinvigorating. As painful as it may seem at the time (especially if you’ve never tried to do anything like meditation or even failed miserably at it), the results are positive.

That day on the table was still busy; I had no time to write. But I spent a long time thinking about my novel and what should come next. I prayed for several dear friends, finally with the time to reflect on their particular situations. And I just laid there doing nothing. Imagine that.

My challenge – which I extend to myself, as well – is to choose to be still from time to time, to choose to watch and listen. To relax at what seems an inconvenient time and recharge. To be present. I can’t slow time or my boys’ growth spurts, but I can use that time to its fullest.

Which sometimes means leaving it empty.