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

107 thoughts on “The Art of Staying Still

  1. Reblogged this on Sarah Spencer and commented:
    “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?”–Tessa Love

    I “wandered home” to become a freelancer. I no longer travel to where the work is; the work now travels to me. Freed of the constraints of a long commute and the need to “dress for success” in the eyes of others, I become free to commit additional energy to the practice of my craft.

    Additional benefits flow toward me as a result of rethinking the way I work. I like being able to take a half-hour break from my work at 10:48am to walk my dogs and refresh myself outdoors. If insomnia strikes me, I can sit down at my iPad or laptop at 2:37am and be productive. I can share breakfast with my husband at 8:12am before he undertakes his own commute into a city.

    Bringing home a paycheck: good. The flexibility to arrange your workday in a way that resolves a variety of competing needs and still bring home a paycheck: priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is fantastic, Sarah! I’m working towards creating that freedom in my own life. I hope I can make it happen sooner rather than later!


  2. Not only is it entirely possible that you have JUST sparked an amazing new endeavour for me by giving me some perspective you have just made me feel VERY happy and indeed, free. I love the way you write ; you have such pretty prosody in your work and yes, this piece is a poem. I am trying to find the word which describes the relationship between reading and feeling – the atmosphere created inside your mind but I’m coming up empty. I was swept away and whirled and twirled. Amazing piece to say the very least! Thank you for the perspective and following clarity of mind to invite the inspiration to create a new endeavour which I will of course share with you once it is in being.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a delightful little book! i have been slowing my life down enjoying it more, so i resonated with the idea of enjoying stillness and some time doing nothing at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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