“It is not wise to dash about.
Shortening the breath causes much stress.
Use too much energy, and
You will soon be exhausted.
That is not the Natural Way.
Whatever works against this Way
Will not last long.”
From the Tao Te Ching.
Far From Still
In this modern world, activity and movement are the default modes, if not with our bodies then at least with our minds, with our attention. We rush around all day, doing things, talking, emailing, sending and reading messages, clicking from browser tab to the next, one link to the next.
We are always on, always connected, always thinking, always talking. There is no time for stillness — and sitting in front of a frenetic computer all day, and then in front of the hyperactive television, doesn’t count as stillness.
I’ve been as guilty as any of getting wrapped up in activity and movement as a default and leaving no time for stillness. It’s unbelieveable how addictive it can become and how draining it can be.
Not All Change is Good Change
This [connectedness] comes at a cost: we lose that time for contemplation, for observing and listening. We lose peace. And worse yet: all the rushing around is often counterproductive. I know, in our society action is all-important — inaction is seen as lazy and passive and unproductive. However, sometimes too much action is worse than no action at all. You can run around crazily, all sound and fury, but get nothing done. Or you can get a lot done — but nothing important. Or you can hurt things with your actions, make things worse than if you’d stayed still.
You can’t know what you really want, what you need, or how you feel about a relationship until you sit still and quietly listen. I can personally attest to how counterproductive action can be while under the influence of this fevered pace and frenzied connectedness.
Many of the changes I’ve made under the influence are things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d spent the time to be still before jumping into decisions. In an effort to make myself feel calmer or feel better, I rushed into things. A few of my previous decisions have been truly contrary to what I’ve since realized I really want. In retrospect, I wish I’d just stayed still.
Is This How You Want to Spend Your Life?
Being still isn’t something we’re used to. Take a moment to think about how you spend your days — at work, after work, getting ready for work, evenings and weekends. Are you constantly rushing around? Are you constantly reading and answering messages, checking on the news and the latest stream of information? Are you always trying to Get Lots of Things Done, ticking off tasks from your list like a machine, rushing through your schedule?
The answer for me is an unequiviocal no! That is not how I want to spend my life. Stepping back and limiting this kind of frenzied connectedness is one of the biggest changes I’ve made in my life lately. Sometimes I do better than others, but I’ve made a commitment to consciously managing it. I’ve seen a marked increase in my happiness (and hopefully my decision making ability) since I began to do nothing and be still. Try it. I highly recommend it.
This post is made possible largely by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits and his uncopyright. Thanks, Leo! The original post was called Be Still. The excerpts from the original post are noted above in block quotes.