When the pace of change picks up and you find yourself flying from one thing to the next, particularly as you go through the inevitable transitions of life, there’s one simple, surefire technique to getting through with flying colors: sit still. This Provision tells you how and why.
I struggled all last week to come up with a topic for this week’s Provision. There are so many good strategies for coping with life’s transitions, that it was hard to choose what comes next.
That said, it’s ironic that I’ve decided to write on the topic I perhaps know the least about: sitting still. It’s especially ironic because I’m writing this Provision in the backseat of a car that’s zooming down the highway at 110 kilometers (70 miles) per hour. Most of us prefer to go fast over sitting still — pushing the speed limit for all it’s worth.
The reason this Provision is coming out late is because I’ve spent the weekend attending my daughter’s graduation from Duke University. At the same time as I prepare to move my home and office from Ohio to Virginia (a distance of almost 1,000 kilometers or 600 miles), I’m also in the midst of graduating both my children into new phases of life: my daughter to medical school and my son to college.
All these transitions speed up the pace of our already hectic lives. That’s one thing our foreign-exchange daughter from Bosnia definitely did not like about the United States: the pace of life is just too busy-busy. People work too hard and rush too much.
During major life transitions • such as moving, graduating, marrying, divorcing, promoting, or downsizing • the pace of change accelerates exponentially. There are myriad details to remember and handle, presents to buy, and feelings to process. How could I be the parent of a college graduate? I’m too young for that! Or so I thought.
When the pace of life jumps to light speed, there’s no better way to respond • each and every day • than to sit still. The Buddhist tradition speaks of a sitting practice, while the Christian tradition might call it a spiritual discipline. Either way, the idea is the same: sitting still works best if we practice it regularly.
But my, how hard that can be! Tell me to go out and run for four hours, all by myself, on some of my favorite running trails and I will jump at the opportunity. Tell me to take those same four hours, in the same woods, sitting still and I’ll never make it • or at least I never have.
Sitting still is simply one of the hardest things for me to do. It does not come naturally. That is, after all, the difference between plants and animals. Animals move. Plants stay put. Some trees have stood in the same spot for centuries, since before the time of Jesus, keeping watch over the scurrying animals below and the flying clouds above. Their wisdom comes from sitting still; the more we sit still the more we share in that wisdom of the ages.
One of the ways that sitting still assists us in times of transition is that it snaps our bodies back into a different way of being. The hectic pace of transitions can whip us into a frenzy. Sitting still brings us back down to earth. It literally grounds us in a different truth. The passage of time creates a kind of impatience and expectation which, although it generates a sense of industry and progress, nevertheless obscures the everlasting quality of life itself.
Sitting still connects us with that quality of being. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on and renew our values and priorities. It calms our mind as we entrust our self to the mystery of life eternal. It tempers the trauma of transition with a simple, enduring truth: this too shall pass.
Sitting still means just that. Do not make it any more complicated. Find a place and sit still. You do not need a special chair, a particular ambiance, or a sitting guru. You can just decide, right now if you want, to sit still for as long as possible. You never know what will come from the practice.
A sense of “being found” often comes from the practice, as recognized in the spirituality of many indigenous peoples. Chaos, confusion, and a sense of “being lost” often accompany times of transition. Sitting still counterbalances that in powerful and refreshing ways
To illustrate this truth, I’ve taken the liberty of editing “Lost,” a poem by David Wagoner, which speaks to the mysteries discoverable only by stopping and anchoring ourselves in the present moment.
Sit still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it you may come back again, saying, Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two bushes are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Sit still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
This knowing is especially important in times of transition. The more dramatic and rapid the pace of change, the more important it is to sit still. I know of no better way to get yourself through with flying colors.
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Thank you again for your thoughts. I think we all visualize more than we realize. I know that I had visualized taking my daughter to college from her first day of kindergarten. As the day approached there were two things that entered my picture that I did not expect. That did not change the value of my visualization, which helped me to be more happy than sad. I’m sure that my visualization helped everything go smoothly.
I’m reading a great book on leadership and changing lifestyles, learning new emotional behaviors, etc. It’s called Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, et al (Click), who wrote Emotional Intelligence. I think you’d find it very useful.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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