In a world or urgency, a life of striving, a treadmill of anxious achievement, one thing seems to be increasingly necessary. An antidote to the stresses of this harder, faster, greater, further, more more more existence.
Not in itself a thing. You cannot hold it. It has no form. Stillness isn’t just freezing your limbs, fixing your gaze, holding your breath.
Stillness is a way of being. It is the gap between the doing. A deeper consciousness. An awareness of your very existence.
Stillness offered another is truly a gift. A place from which connection comes. A foundation for attention. Being with.
Stillness within. That is the real challenge.
The early morning sky today reveals the past. Journeys taken by airplanes, one after another, thrusting their way to a common destination. The trails remain, for a while, then dissipate, lost into the passage of time.
I wonder if we have trails too? Human trails of being? Invisible to others, often invisible to us. Trails which reflect a path we have journeyed; a choice we made, a decision we took, a thought we encountered.
Maybe the paths, like airplane trails, fade quickly? So quickly we don’t see them overlaid, repeated. We lose sight of the flight paths previously flown. The recurring patterns of thought, behaviour, choice… The fact that they might follow a similar route, that they might point to a common destination, is lost to us. But if they did linger, maybe we could see their purpose? Their intent? Their focus?
Maybe then we would know what silent beacon calls them?
These human trails of being.
As a child I loved Woolworths.
I confess to wandering around and around the pick and mix island scouring the wooden parquet floor for fallen booty, which I would quickly and joyfully snaffle up as I threaded my small frame between adult legs. I loved equally the thrill of legitimately choosing a bag of your own sweets. The power, choice, influence and sheer excitement was palpable. I had a number of toys from Woolworths, including a favourite teddy bear, called Button Nose; I recall he cost sixpence (old money).
Once I became a teenager and adult I never shopped there. Their stores became more modern, but somehow drab, soulless sheds with a random array of merchandise, hard to locate and often cheap and tacky. Woolworths closed subsequently.
The news today that BHS is closing reminded me of the loss of Woolworths.
It reminds me too of mourning the loss of a capability, a passion, a dream.
In a coaching session today, my client said several times ‘in my youth I used to do that…’, ‘when I was younger I would have…’. I noticed how they were reflecting on a loss of a way of being. A freedom and spirit once enjoyed had been lost to the drudgery of work and earning an income. Mourning the loss of an unused love, perhaps?
Where was the excitement of a pick and mix visit?
Where is the love of a childhood teddy bear?
Just seen a stretch limousine followed by a Smart car.
Amusing somehow; big and small.
But, as Harry Hill might say, “Which is better?”
Some things, it seems, we have a desire to go large on. Generally we aspire to own a bigger house or attain a larger salary. Indeed some things seem only to come in one desirable size. More leg room on a plane for example – I’ve never heard anyone seek less. Nor do you hear of people praising a smaller heart; having a big heart is a positive thing.
Some things though come with an aspiration for smaller. For little. Many aspire to a smaller waist and maybe a smaller appetite. It’s rare to hear someone say I really want an extra few inches around my middle. I’ve never wanted a bigger spot on my chin. A smaller inbox might be desirable; more emails anyone? And, as if in counterbalance to the heart, a big ego is often deemed a negative thing. A smaller ego might be seen as preferable.
Sometimes our size preference shifts. Occasionally we downsize, go smaller. Maybe retire to a little house with less maintenance? Or a smaller job, with less pressure?
We all used to aspire to a smaller phone, now it seems we seek a larger one.
Bigger or smaller seems to apply to much stuff in our lives but not so much to our lives themselves.
Do you aspire to a bigger life, to smaller thoughts, to bigger feelings?
Why not? Why don’t we assess these things in similar size ways?
Now that could be smart.
It’s Bank Holiday weekend.
Strange how we hold on to these relics of a time gone by. These customs. These traditions. Long beyond their time in a sense.
Bank Holidays have been around in current form since the late 1800s and were all associated with important religious festivals and agricultural holidays before they were enacted into law by the Victorians. So many go back even further. May Day only became an official bank holiday in 1971, but its roots as a holiday stretch back to pre-Christian pagan festivals, and the familiar rituals of crowning of the May Queen and dancing around the Maypole made it a popular seasonal celebration in medieval England.
So why do we keep traditions?
Sure we enjoy the day off, but we don’t bring the holiday into the present context; rather, we hang on to a relevance long gone.
It is like that too with our lives more broadly. We hold on to behaviour and thinking rituals which often served us well as children. No longer useful as adults, we keep them still; almost shackled to the tradition.
We do this with learning too. Learning skills and ways of being which suit one role, but still practicing them in others, such as later careers we may undertake, or even in parenting, or other life roles.
Strange our love of the past.
I met a potential coaching client the other day, wanting to explore how they could spend less of their time in a worried state. The brief conversation led to me being curious about worrying. Its intent, patterns of behaviour, structure, purpose etc.
In pondering my own experience I notice that I don’t typically worry when I’m in a really good mood. When things are joyous, happy, positive, worry seems to be absent?
The next thing I notice is that worry seems to be in two broad forms – imagining a future potential scenario or assessing a past one. I worry about something that might or might not happen, or I worry about what I’ve just done, or not done. This leads me to notice that worry seems to be neutral in some way – it shows no favoritism to good or bad, might or might not, did or didn’t.
Worry seems to be a state of disablement. Worry, in a sense, stops me acting. It occupies me … with worry. I don’t know that worry achieves anything other than keeping us busy. I am reminded of this quote (attributed to a number of people)…
Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.
I have also met people for whom worry becomes a state of existence. They develop beliefs about the need to worry in order to be themselves. Worrying develops a heightened state of challenge that delivers, it seems to them, a better result.
Curious that we worry.
That’s enough worrying about worry for now. Time to just be.
Shut your eyes and see
Sometimes looking blinds us to what is really going on.
Especially when the truth lies inside.
image: Tony Allen