In a world as fast-paced as our western society tends to be, it is nearly impossible to find stillness. Even when we make ourselves physically still, finding stillness in our minds continues to be a challenge. There are so many external expectations of us—some we are consciously aware of and others we try to meet without much awareness of them.
The biggest lesson I learned through the rapid progression of my illness was the value of being still. I did not come by this lesson willingly, however. I knew it was important, but could not imagine myself ever being able to achieve it in this lifetime. That is, until it was forced upon me. I was always busy. Even when I wasn’t busy, I would create busy because being still was scary to me most of my life.
Not being able to walk, or to even move the manual wheelchair far on my own, seemed to me to be an awfully harsh way to teach me to be still. Once I stopped fighting it, I could see it was invaluable. Of course, just because my body was not able to move much or far, didn’t mean my mind wasn’t still spinning around.
I paced in my mind. I was fearful about my health, my housing, my job, my dogs, my future. The pain and seemingly daily symptom progression in those early months, taught me to be more present and slow down the pacing. I only had the moment, and each moment was packed with necessary decisions, adjustments and problem solving about meeting my basic needs. I could not afford to not be present in the moments to take care of what needed to be taken care of next.
By the time I did lose everything material, I understood stillness both in my body and in my mind. This new ability helped me through the rest of the nightmare in ways that I could not see as clearly until recently, when I was writing the manuscript. I cannot imagine what the rest of the experience, living in the homeless program with my clients and in the nursing home, would have been like without this basic lesson.
When the pool therapy and later the intrathecal baclofen pump allowed me to increase my physical activity, I worried that I would lose the stillness lessons. Through the pump drama of the last couple of years, I had to work hard to find my space in stillness in my mind. It was the ability to be still that I knew would help me to get through whatever was to happen next.
Being still has to be a conscious choice for me now. I have to make an exerted effort to find the stillness that will help me to shift my perspective, surrender if that is what is needed, decrease my resistance to what is, and remind me that whatever happens next will be ok.
Outside of the stillness, I feel victimized and everything bad is happening to me. I lose my personal power. I feel like hiding under the covers or waging a war. And, I certainly cannot see beyond what is in front of me to trust that I will be ok no matter what. I have to return to the stillness for this perspective.
What is your experience with stillness? How do you find it or how do you think you might find it without having to be forced into it?
- Learning to be Still (leslieannvarela.wordpress.com)