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Why Standing Still Moves You Forward

One hundred actions are not worth as much as one moment of stillness–xiangzhai

I run all day long.

From breakfast meetings, to yoga, to the farmers market, to move the car, to office fly bys, to client check ins, to conference calls which often take place with me huddled up against a wall in the subway because I can’t get from a to b fast enough to be sitting at a desk—something I do not do well anyway.

For as long as I can remember people have commented on the speed and constancy with which I move.

Energizer bunny.

Catch her if you can.

But then one day all that running around caught up with me.

I was running late and was going to blow off a date with an acquaintance—one of those ”lets get coffee sometime” meetings that was now actually HERE and loomed as a nuisance and a distraction to all that was running through my head.

I thought about it as I was rushing in the direction of the coffee shop and realized that it would now take more effort to get out of it than it would to get on with it. So I went in.

As soon as i sat down i said: “i have to go in a minute. Sorry, I don’t really have time to talk too long” to which she shocked me by saying:

“ oh, then why don’t you leave now and we reschedule. we wont have a good conversation if you are preoccupied with leaving”.

I took my coat off and took my phone off the table and put it in my purse and thanked her.

We proceeded to talk for an hour and a half about everything and nothing and I felt calm, content, rooted. For the first time in FOREVER, I was not distracted. It was a feeling of being connected to the world as opposed to being some sort of unguided missile flying out into the stratosphere.

I realized that i while I was thinking that I was always running because I had such a full and rich and BUSY life, i was actually running PAST life—closing myself to new experiences while tricking myself into thinking I was in constant FORWARD momentum—believing I was moving TOWARD new experiences while missing them altogether.

So I decided to see what standing still was like, and more importantly, if I could even DO IT.

Standing still is perhaps the most contradictory activity in which we can engage. While we are seemingly just “standing there”, in fact we are challenging ourselves both physically and mentally, using every muscle in our bodies, strong, deliberate breath and an iron willed focus.

All to do that which our culture regards as doing “NOTHING”.

To many, to stand still is to stagnate. To lose momentum. Not to keep up with progress.

The truth is, many consider standing still as falling behind.

Yet standing still has taught me valuable lessons. It allows me to be inside myself. Instead of always being the busy one, the active one, the catalyst, standing still allows me to watch.

It helps me to see things and in that moment of truly “seeing”, the world looks different to me. Or maybe it doesn’t LOOK different, maybe its just that I am FINALLY LOOKING at it instead of it being a blur in my rearview mirror.

When I am standing still I can listen. When I am talking and planning my next clever response, I cannot hear a thing.

When I can see and hear, I can learn new things. I can change. I can grow. That is perhaps why trees are so big. They stand still and witness the seasons, the rain, the sunshine, the animals in their cycles. They gather up strength from the earth below. From their deep place in the earth they reach into the air—rooted yet light.

They stand still but they don’t stay the same. Running around all the time allows me to stay the same because nothing has the time to change me.

It’s possible that being patient and gathering our energy may allow us to do what we THINK running around trying to change things will achieve.

How can we change what we cannot really see or understand because we are too busy running past it to get to the next IT?

Constant activity does not allow us the opportunity to see things as they are…the world is a blur of movement instead of a place of peace, stillness and contemplation.

And it is in those moments of quiet that change has a chance. Starting with our own selves.
Too often we believe that what needs change is the world around us. In some ways, it seems easier to change the OUTSIDE world—maybe because that change requires overt ACTION. RECYCLE. BE KIND. EAT RIGHT.

The change we might most benefit from in ourselves is not usually visible-unless it is something as obvious as wanting to lose or gain weight. Typically, the changes one wants to make in oneself are more abstract and require deep analysis in order to identify them and then a quiet introspection to allow and acknowledge their existence and effect on our selves and how we can come to peace with it.

Ironically, coincidentally, cosmically, as I have been challenging myself to stand still and listen, today I was able to HEAR my yoga teacher, say what I probably would never even have registered two weeks ago because I would have been fidgeting around wondering if I should go to a movie or stay home and do the laundry.

“We’re all exhausted from running around. But what are we running from? What are we running TO?”

She quoted Mr. Iyengar: “Intimacy with another is only possible when we are first able to be intimate with ourselves. And the only way that can happen is if we take the time to go INSIDE instead of always living on the OUTSIDE.”

On this January day I thought there might be something going on here that is not only a philosophical truth, but also a practical one.

Face it– it’s cold OUTSIDE. Its warm INSIDE.

I think I’ll go there and stand still a while.

Have you found the importance of standing still in your own life? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments!

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5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    MaryAnne

    December 22, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Until I slipped on an icey sidewalk downtown and broke my tibias and fibula 2 Februaries ago, I did not stand still. The stress of my job and the people in gov’t had me running ragged..Since then, that lovely break, I have been standing still, doing my practice, breathing, training, sketching, walking outdoors and I won’t work anymore..it is tooo much. I love being home, inside myself, and around only nice people. Why I Don’t even have see cold and mean people or go outside in the cold cold streets and face all those cold cold mean stares anymore..

  2. Avatar

    Pokey

    December 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

    How well thought and said!
    Myself, I’m a natural ‘introvert’ in a culture which seems to insist I/we be the opposite – thanks for the reminder that I need to frequently call ‘Stop!’ and stand myself still for a while.
    I especially loved Gailanne’s analogy to trees…..”why trees are so big. They stand still and witness the seasons, the rain, the sunshine, the animals in their cycles. They gather up strength from the earth below. From their deep place in the earth they reach into the air—rooted yet light.”

  3. Avatar

    frankie mhugh

    December 27, 2017 at 11:10 am

    thank you gailanne you have me thinking–
    i don’t feel as guilty now, staying home with my thoughts and hobbies. more often than not i feel guilty that i am not like everybody else out in the world going and blowing trying to make a buck only to spend a buck…

    we all save our money hoping to visit countries so we can admire populations where people live in the now. we visit their county side and farmlands, chat with the charming country folks and yet never take the time to visit our own countryside 25-50 miles away…why, maybe we can’t see the forest through the big standing still trees.

  4. Avatar

    Laura Mc

    March 7, 2018 at 5:47 am

    Thank you for this beautiful piece, Gailanne. I am constantly challenging myself to live slow enough. Often, when we are inconvenienced, we are asked to slow down. Unfortunately, we are all so high-paced, running so fast to where want to be, that many of us are forced to slow down through illness or breakage. If we could see ourselves from far enough away, we would seem like a colony of insects running into things repeatedly: thousands of little determined beings butting into obstacles, shaking our little heads and bodies, and running into things again. When we feel stalled, numb or exhausted from the trials of life, we should simply slow our thoughts to the pace of cracks widening and our hearts to the pace of the earth soaking up rain.

  5. gailanne grosso

    gailanne grosso

    March 7, 2018 at 7:54 am

    thank you laura…i so appreciate your thoughtful words…and as someone else said…so often slowing down is in response to a breakage, a slip, a fall, some sort of painful experience. its up to us to make it a joyful choice that comes from a place of calm and reflection…MUCH easier said than done –if even totally possible! have a wonderful, s l o w day!

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