Cultivating stillness

“You have to cultivate stillness.”

I said this to a friend the other day. At the time we were talking about sparring – kung fu style – and the fact that he really needed to work on conserving his energy during a fight. But that simple comment has stuck with me ever since I spoke the words.

The more I think about it the more I’ve come to find that this phrase dominates my worldview. There are other, just as important ones, but right now this is the one that moves me.

We live in chaotic times. We are linked in, plugged in, always on-call, 24-hour news, instant messaging, and always on the go. Facebook, Twitter, endless blogging platforms, streaming media. Some days it’s a wonder our heads don’t explode like that dude in Scanners.

You know what I thought? For all the insanity I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Some folks like to wax nostalgic about “the good old days” but you couldn’t pay me to go back to the days when it took a letter weeks to cross the country. Or back to when you spent your whole life only knowing the people in your town.

I see a lot of claims that the Internet disconnects us, isolates us, and makes us more alone than ever. There’s talk of “online” friends versus “real” friends as though the people we speak to only exist in our computer and not out in “real life” somewhere.

I disagree with this. I think the ‘Net gives us scope, reach, and a global community unlike anything in history. It’s all a matter of how we view it and how we use it.

It does make staying balanced a challenge sometimes, and if one isn’t careful she can drown in the deluge. Cultivating stillness in our 21st lives is a vital skill. Not only for the simple task of coping with the world, but for our creativity.

I read an article on The 99% the other day by Scott Belsky about how the lack of down time in the 21st century was killing creativity. (What Happened to Downtime: The Extinction of Deep Thinking Sacred Space) I encourage you to take a few minutes a read it.

I think that what Mr. Belsky has to say is true. I know that when I get frantic my ability to concentrate on my writing is one of the first things to go.

So how do you cultivate stillness? For me it’s often a reminder I don’t have to check my Twitter feed while I’m eating dinner. Or that a walk might be a better idea than staring at the TV screen. It’s often little things, simple things – meditation, or hiking, or listening to music while watching the sunset. I think the list of things I do to cultivate stillness is as long as the list of things that distracts me and winds me up. *laughs*

What about you? How do you find your balance and nurture your creativity. How do you shake off the 21st century and cultivate your own stillness?

K.B. Wagers


12 responses to “Cultivating stillness

  1. Raymond Bolton

    Fortunately, my work enables it. Although I am a hair stylist and most clients come not only to have their looks attended to, but to visit, there is always that one who needs to just sit and think. And then, so can I. Cutting hair is sculpture, albeit an unenduring form. Coloring hair requires a visualization of the end result when the medium does not reveal it while it is being applied. I lose myself in the process and achieve stillness, if only for a while.

    Or I can achieve it studying a brilliant photo of water lillies. Did you take that, Katy?

  2. Excellent post, and food for thought today….

    I’ve read that (with all of our gadgets) we also endanger our creativity by simply eliminating boredom. Boredom is stillness without discipline?


    • Thanks! 🙂

      I would say more that boredom is our brains not recognizing stillness. We’re so used to going, going, going that when we stop it can be really confusing until you train your brain back to recognize that stillness can be a good thing!

  3. Jar O' Marbles

    I cultivate silliness by listening to music while I clean or cook, singing as loud as I can. It gets out excess stress and makes me happy. =)

    Not sure how the hubby or dog feel about it, maybe that’s why they stay upstairs when I’m cooking.

  4. I try to cultivate a window of stillness each day, by unplugging (often even from music) and spending time out wandering the garden (weather permitting), soaking in a bubble bath or sitting by the fire reading some poetry. Sometimes the window is only 10 minutes, but hey. You take what you can get.

    Also, tea seems to trigger a state of stillness in me. Not the fast, bag in a cup version, but the actual loose leaf in a tetsubin with a small Japanese cup that must be frequently re-filled. There’s a certain amount of attention to process that must be paid, and I find it very relaxing. Works on my sons, too, and they don’t even realize what’s happening. =D

  5. For me? It’s the ocean and luckily I live right on it. If I need stillness, all I do is walk down to the Seawall and I’m there. The other thing that works for me is walking – even five minutes, even on the busiest city street, and I’m relaxed and still and thinking about nothing. I love it.


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