Imagine driving down the road at 100 miles an hour, keenly aware of each turn, every obstacle, and laser-focused on your destination. All of a sudden, you come to a screeching halt. You’re shocked and shaken as you try to steady yourself.
Welcome to March 14, 2020.
While at times the speed might have felt a bit unsettling or overwhelming, you were in motion, in the flow of a rhythm, and you knew what to expect. And then it stopped.
I woke up on March 14th and felt as though I was suddenly standing on a planet that was no longer spinning.
Plans canceled, dance competition canceled, school closed, offices closes, no trains to catch, no lunches to pack, no rehearsals to attend, no errands to run. No reason to leave the house…
The whiplash was of the mental variety…but with lasting effects, just as if it had been a physical injury.
It’s a dizzying feeling, trying to reclaim your balance and then return to the familiarity of movement. It seemed temporary, and so I waited. Waited for this strange world to get back to “normal,” waited for life to pick back up. My inclination (and maybe yours) was that a return to old life would come as soon as we could get back into motion, so I did the mental (and sometimes physical) version of pacing. I needed to get out of this strange in-between, waiting place as quickly as possible. “Just pick back up and try to regain some of that momentum,” I kept thinking. It didn’t happen that way.
Jump back in, dizzy. Jump back in, dizzy. Jump back in, dizzy. So I tried something different.
Find Stillness, Then Start
Over the summer, I took a yoga-ish class (on Zoom obviously) – part yoga, part writing, part focusing on yourself and your thoughts, led by Jen Pastiloff (author, yogi, all-around amazing person to follow). During the class, Jen was wearing a necklace with a compass design on one side, and the words Find Stillness, Then Start engraved on the back.
On a sunny summer afternoon, with perfect weather, I did just that. A moment of stillness. A reset of sorts. A moment to recharge. I wasn’t rushing to jump back in, and at that moment, I wasn’t dizzy.
I suddenly realized that I’d been confusing waiting for stillness. They’re different. The anticipation of what’s to come is not stillness. Stillness is quieting the mind and the body. The words on this necklace (that I now wear) have lingered in my head for months, acting as a part talisman, part mantra. Before jumping back in, sit in stillness.
The thing about stillness is that it’s not the default setting for most. It’s not a passive activity. It’s not the absence of doing something else. You have to create the space for stillness. I won’t tell you how to do that for yourself, but I find stillness in reading, in being alone, in listening to music, and in tuning out the world around me. I quiet the voices from the world around me and my own head.
If you’re trying to start and pick back up, and you can’t quite get your footing to move forward, create your own stillness. A friend of mine has a ritual around essential oils; others create stillness in their mind while their body is in motion (exercising)… whatever this looks like for you, it doesn’t have to be woo-woo, but it does have to be deliberate.