I have been told, by more than one person, that I am the least still person they know. I mean, physically, I never stop moving. Whether it’s walking, fidgeting, biting my nails, or tinkering around, I’m always moving. My mom used to say this is why she put me in gymnastics. She hoped I would get some of that energy out at the gym, but I would inevitably come home and eat dinner standing up, then watch tv in a headstand. Tommy is constantly telling me to take a breath, take a few more seconds to do what I’m doing, and to slow down, just a little, to keep from spinning away. As an adult, I’m acutely aware of this lack of stillness, particularly in my head. As much as I’m moving on the outside, I’m moving tenfold on the inside.
I’ve never been good at meditating. I attempted to practice various methods in college but always found myself getting distracted, getting bored, and eventually getting up off the floor to do something else. I had essentially given up, finding daily journaling to have the centering effect I was seeking through meditation. Recently a friend recommended I give it another go. This was after I shared how frustrated I was by the never-ending cycle of worrying about the future while desperately trying to remain in the moment. The present was painful, the future was scary, and I didn’t know where to focus. I decided to try again, not expecting much to come from it.
That afternoon I found myself in a YouTube hole watching the ‘Vogue 73 questions’ videos. The series where a celebrity is followed through their home or workplace and is asked 73 questions at rapid-fire speed. I don’t know why I find these so fascinating, but I’ve watched dozens. Emily Blunt was halfway through hers when they asked her favorite way to decompress. She said, “I do transcendental meditation every day”. I mean…Emily Blunt seems like the most grounded woman around right?? She always seems calm, happy, and cool as a cucumber. As silly as it sounds, I decided to try it because who doesn’t want to be more like Emily Blunt?
Cut to the end of that week: I (much to my own shock) loved it. I found a guided course online as an introduction and discovered that through this method, I was able to release the control aspect I was struggling with in my previous meditation attempts. Most meditation aims to control or train the mind by a way of thinking. Transcendence lets the mind go where it wants, and then naturally leads you to where you want to be. It’s playful, gracious, and I really enjoyed it. I am now meeting with a teacher in-person to learn more, but overall, I can’t recommend giving this a go if you’ve struggled with meditation in the past, but long for its benefits. Even in the beginning stages of exploring this new tool, I have noticed a shift in my mindset, not only during the meditation but all day long.
Okay, back to stillness. So I was feeling like a hotshot, totally-centered, Emily Blunt-like present-minded meditation star (yes, you can laugh, believe me, I am), when one afternoon I hit an emotional speed bump that rocked my world. An innocent goal/plan stopped me in my tracks when I remembered we don’t live in a situation where we have the luxury of planning ahead. We’re living day by day, endlessly grateful to be where we are, but desperately missing living in ignorant bliss. I missed taking time and regular life for granted. I’ve shared how grateful I am for the vast perspective I’ve gained after this year. I have felt like a beautiful secret has been revealed to me, about what matters in life and what doesn’t, but this secret wasn’t given without strings attached.
I had worked myself into a frustrated ball when I remembered: Just Be Still. It kept popping into my head. But how? How do I keep my mind from jumping ten steps ahead? Just Be Still. I could admit there was very little stillness between the jumps: I want to plan our life beyond cancer-there will be time for that, just focus on healing-I want to make long term goals-just appreciate where you are-I want to move past this season-you will, but it will take time-on and on and on. After much back and forth struggle with my mind and body, I sat down and demanded myself to practice stillness. I negotiated with my brain that I was allowed to remain angry, but had to be physically still. It was uncomfortable, but slowly the stillness crept through. It calmed the spiky parts of my mind, allowing me to once again see the gorgeous gifts we have been given. Gifts that were right in front of me, but had become blurry from all the movement. Stillness brought clarity and peace to my agitated heart.
I’m challenging myself over the next few months to keep those gifts in focus. Even if my brain is telling me to move, I’m going to give my heart a moment instead- just to make sure my priorities are in order. My tendency is to rush around and then look back on the day once it’s past, but I want more than that. When we’re on vacation next week, and my brain is telling me to run to two more museums before they close, I’m going to pause to ask my heart: Am I letting the gifts in front of me blur? Is the gift of this day a fully checked off itinerary, or is it playing within the moments with Tommy? Would moving at a slightly slower pace allowed me to appreciate what I am seeing in a more profound way? Probably. My intentions are good, we are going to have a wonderful trip, we are going to see tons of amazing things, and taking a moment to send my energy in a direction that serves me better won’t change that- it will only magnify the enjoyment.
I have found many benefits in these ‘check-in moments’ throughout the day to recenter and redirect my trajectory. Starting the day with meditation and intention, then weaving it through the rest of the day. Practice will never make perfect in this scenario, but it will definitely draw out and showcase beautiful moments of stillness and joy I might have otherwise zipped past.
Have you used any grounding techniques to stay present? What has worked best/hasn’t been as helpful for you? Comment below!