Sometimes You Just Gotta Sit Still

Max loves sitting still.

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Wait. Scratch that, reverse it.

Max hates sitting still.

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Probably because when he does sit still, stuff like this happens to him.

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Max has taught me several things about sitting still. First, it is really hard. It takes a lot of discipline to sit still. Max does not have this discipline, especially when there is food to eat or new smells to smell.

And, to be honest, I don’t always have this discipline either. I’m patient, and I’m pretty good at meditating, but when there is a lot going on in my life, I find it very difficult to be still. It’s like I’ve trained myself to be constantly busy and get a lot done. But the few moments in which I do take the time to be still, I find that I am much more centered and productive. I am much less anxious and find more peace.

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Just this week, I learned about an image Thoreau used to comment on busyness and productivity. He explains that efficiency does not follow constant labor, and uses the image of a hen, who can only lay one egg at a time. He notes that it is useless for the hen to sit all day trying to lay more eggs, but rather the hen uses the rest of her time to feed herself and prepare for the next egg. The hen has to give appropriate space for the production of a new egg.

And such stillness is hard to do when there are many distractions and even more expectations of new results. Yet, Max has taught me that sitting still in healthy rest is what best prepares me for whatever movement or results I am trying to work toward.

Moreover, when Max visits other dogs and takes no time to be still, but rather plays non-stop, he crashes as soon as we go back home and is completely unprepared to do anything else. While I wish I could outlast even Max, I know the same is true of me too.

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But Max has also taught me that it can be good and virtuous not to sit still. Sometimes I have to get off my butt and be present and active in the world. Sometimes it is good to be excited and involved. And sometimes I can get trapped being too still.

While pushing myself always to be busy leads to unhealthy collapse, Max has also taught me that too much sitting still just leads to more sitting still. It leads to apathy. If I force Max to wait before going outside, he pretty quickly gives up and lays down. It is easy to get in a rut of sitting still, and not actually exploring or making a difference in the world.

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So, there seems to be a sweet spot of finding the right moments to be still, but also taking the opportunities to get up and be active. Sometimes I gotta be still to refresh and break up the busyness I fill my life with, but sometimes I gotta get up and move to refresh and break up the cycle of apathy and inaction I often find myself trapped in.

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And when I am sitting still, I need to be doing the things that really refresh me, that nurture me so I can produce better eggy ideas. And when I am moving, I need to be intentional and move toward love and justice, not just run after squirrels I will never catch.

So thank you Max for teaching me that I need to work a little harder to find the sweet spot between rest and action in order to be productively healthy. And thank you for spending the time with me to sit still or to move around as we try to find that balance.

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