Food For Thought: The Art of Stillness

I took my first hot yoga class this evening. I’ve been practicing at URU Yoga & Beyond in Pensacola, Florida. I’ll admit, after a day of work, hot yoga really kicked my ass. It was one of those workouts that pisses you off and makes you want to work harder.

At the end of the class, while we were in shavasana, the teacher had some great quote that I mentally logged to look up later.

In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still. So you can go on your next vacation to Paris or Hawaii, or New Orleans; I bet you’ll have a wonderful time. But, if you want to come back home alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world, I think you might want to try considering going nowhere.

I found that the quote was from a Ted Talk given by Pico Iyer in November of 2014. Iyer is a British travel writer with a great backstory including teaching at Harvard and working for Time magazine. After watching his 15 minute talk I’m feeling quite inspired. At age 29, Iyer decided to give up his ‘dream life’ and moved to Kyoto, Japan in search of stillness and ‘going nowhere’.

Iyer describes ‘going nowhere’ as taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.”

Much of our lives are spent in our minds, memories, and imaginations. Iyer notes that I found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still.”

I have found in my personal life that whenever I attempt mindfulness or stillness, I struggle with what I may be missing while away, or what I could or should be doing for someone else. Iyer makes a good point:

And every season I do try to take three days off on retreat but a part of me still feels guilty to be leaving my poor wife behind and to be ignoring all those seemingly urgent emails from my bosses and maybe to be missing a friend’s birthday party. But as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize that it’s only by going there that I’ll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share with my wife or bosses or friends. Otherwise, really, I’m just foisting on them my exhaustion or my distractedness, which is no blessing at all.

While I haven’t physically tried to get away, this point hits close to home. Somedays I don’t realize what I could be bringing to the table in terms of ideas or attitude. I’m extremely guilty of being distracted and really up until now, haven’t realized how much my distractedness can affect those around me.

After watching this video, I’m now challenging myself to get my distractedness under control. From using my glowing screens less before bed to just being still in times of wait, I plan to incorporate stillness into my every day life.

Consider The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer added to my “To Read…” list.