The Art of Staying Still

There is something to silence, something to solitude and the sustainment of a state of being that lulls a mind into its quiet nooks and rifts, cocooning thoughts into circuitous notions and immovable meditations. To be fixed, fastened and pinned to one place can make a body move slow and make the wandering heart crave… something. Anything. To simply go. For the ones who wish to move freely through the world, this silence, solitude and sustainment can feel less contemplative and more broody, stalled.

This is where I find myself this gray and rainy January day in the middle of the workweek with no brightly lit, faraway place in sight. In this space, feet firmly planted in home, a funny thing begins to happen. As a collector of things — stones, books, trinkets, leaves, words — I surround myself with the things that define my world, define my home. I arrange them carefully to tell the stories of place, time, whims and wonder, and ultimately inhabit those stories as mine. In the calculated space between the painted terra cotta pot and the palm-sized, leather-bound dictionary, the stack of blue books and the stone from Point Reyes, my own narrative is strung, a web criss-crossing the rooms I pass through and holding me here. This sense of being beholden to the stage I’ve set for myself can be good: Having a place to call your own can foster growth and action. But it can also feel bound, unfree, as if the action itself is intrinsically linked to the place — not the mind — that it stems from. To put it simply, when your sense of self becomes locked to your sense of (familiar) space, inspiration is limited.

This insular experience is not created just in the space of the home, but in the broader confines of placehood. This city, this state, this country; this culture, same set of songs, same sets of values and beliefs. Like island fever or the monotony of the landlocked, to be unable to reach beyond your current state is a prospect most humans, I’ve found, are uncomfortable with. We crave the miles and knowledge of the world, crave discovery and the ability to become a culture of one: ourselves. To wander is to find yourself autonomous in the midst of a culture, landscape or history. To travel is to shed identities and occupy new ones, expand beyond the need for the stories your possessions wrap you in.

So what comes of us working stiffs? The ones tethered to desks and paychecks and accountability? When our identities become like iron around us, unshakable and unshedable, how do we break free?

I can’t claim to be an expert and am clearly not immune to wanderlust; I won’t say things like “Rearrange your space, rearrange your mind!” Instead, I’ll advocate for going into the rifts, the hidden nooks your psyche is holding open for you, and settling in. To be a body moving freely in the world is exhilarating, but we almost always miss some kind of home. The deeper you carve out a space of comfort in your mind, circuitous and cocooned as it may be, the better suited you will be for shedding your skin, reinventing your singularity, and maintaining a home of the self when the open road is stretched out before you. Stillness can be deceptive; the mind can always wander free.

Tessa Love

105 thoughts on “The Art of Staying Still

  1. Tessa, I really liked your post about the seeming dichotomy of human need for both moving out into the world and having a home base in. which one can feel linked by things, people, experiences that help us know and define who we are. I am by nature a “homebody” and that sense of a base from which I can move into exploration and discovery of the world, is critical to the very learning and growth that I seek. I truly believe that it is possible to encompass the two seemingly divergent directions that pull on us and to integrate them into meaningful experience. Thanks again for your post. Dianne Harson at aquiltedlife.wordpress.com

    Liked by 2 people

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