“The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.” – Bruce Lee
Creativity and life coaches will tell you how important it is to examine your own personal stories. To move past blockages and create new possibilities, you must recognize those stories, name them, and question whether they are stories that help or hinder you on your path.
I come by my personal story of speed and movement honestly. My mother was a singular hurricane force in my childhood and youth. At 5 or 6 years old, I remember how my brother and I had to literally run to keep up with her as we hurried to get to some appointment. Tall and strong, a multisport athlete in college and a physical education teacher, she was always moving. Our summer vacations were spent in swimming lessons by 8am at the city park. After swimming it was on to the country club for golf clinic. Although my mother was a very social person, she did not like entertaining. After dinner, her preference was to quickly remove the dishes, clean up the kitchen and move on to something else. There was no sitting around the table with the detritus of dinner strewn about, lingering over late glasses of wine, chatting, or lollygagging, while there was work to be done.
My brother and I took this story to heart. We too were always in motion, doing and accomplishing. My brother played two varsity sports and went on to play Division I college football. The list of activities, clubs and positions I held in high school is as long as my arm, including Valedictorian, State President of the Classical League, first chair oboe in the symphony, etc. I get exhausted just thinking about those days.
That story of speed and motion served me well for many years. My brother and I both grew up to be very successful in our chosen careers. In many ways, we have our dynamo of a mother to thank for it. But the soundtrack of that story is almost hard-wired into my brain. I have tremendous difficulty allowing myself to do nothing, or even doing something slow.
This would not be a problem, but for the fact that the goals I have for myself now in middle life are different than the ones of my youth. I want to stop judging – myself and others. I want to be kinder – to myself and others. I want to let go of the need to control. I want to be a better photographer; I want to be a better writer. I want to take better care of my body. To achieve these goals, I need to throw out the old personal story of speed and motion, and create a new story of SLOWNESS and MINDFULNESS.
To be kinder, I need to slow down and really SEE others. To stop judging, I need to slow down and consider context outside myself. To take care of my body, I need to be more mindful of what I eat. To be a better photographer, I need to stop clicking away, stand still, and really see light and shadow and composition.
But how do you write a new story that is so wildly different from the one you’ve always known? What are the techniques to teach slowness and mindfulness to a body and spirit that has only known speed and movement?
In later life, my mother developed chronic atrial fibrillation, a heart condition producing an irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation causes extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. As a result, she could no longer walk very far or move very fast. It was a terribly cruel blow to someone whose life had always been speed and motion. And she fought it daily until the very end.