Tonight, I did two things that are unusual for me:
- I got my nails done.
- I sat still and stared off into space and let my mind turn off.
In fact, I sat still and stared off into space and let my mind turn off while getting my nails done. When she finished, the manicurist invited me to stay for a few minutes. I didn’t realize how calm I felt until I took her up on that.
I realized that I didn’t remember the last time I had simply sat and stared off into space. I do let my mind turn off pretty regularly, which is something I love about running and yoga. But just sitting? Just staring? Never.
True, I was having my nails done, so it wasn’t nothing. But I think that’s what gave me the freedom to do it, to just sit and stare without seeing. While my hands were literally in someone else’s and once polite conversation and small talk waned, there wasn’t much I could do except sit and look off into space.
Reflecting on it now, I don’t know what I was thinking about or if I was thinking at all. My mind found its way to a quiet place where I didn’t have to think about anything and where nothing was weighing on me. Strangely, I didn’t feel guilty for not doing something else or something additional with that time. I didn’t feel pressure to make mental notes or plans or go over anything in particular.
It’s strange to me that this is a notable moment, which is why I’m sharing it. I often feel like I need to keep my mind occupied with reading, listening to podcasts and the radio, or talking with others in effort to always learn something new, always be useful, always try to be better than I am. It was nice to step away from that (without using running or yoga as the excuse) and let my mind go wherever it wanted to go.
As I write this, I’m laughing at my own fascination with the enjoyment of quiet and stillness. I think it’s really the stillness element that made the whole experience unusual. People who know me well know that I can’t sit and I definitely can’t sit and do nothing. They know that I hate sitting and doing nothing. That’s why sitting always comes with reading or other people or food or writing, all of which I love and which occupy the majority of my time. I can’t even sit and listen to a podcast; I need to be up and moving for those because sitting while listening seems far too self-indulgent. (Let the record show that I am aware that this is illogical.)
But maybe a few minutes of stillness is good for me. Maybe that’s what I’ve been missing when I tell myself that someday soon, I’ll try to develop a meditation practice. I’ve been wanting to do that because it’s supposed to be good for you. And I’ve been putting it off because I don’t know if that interested, except that it’s supposed to be good for you. Somehow, it’s different when I think about trying a meditation practice because stillness is hard for me but felt good today.
And even if finding quiet and stillness continues to be a rare happening in my life, I’m glad that I found some today.
A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live. – Bertrand Russell