The case for staying still

When's the last time you were really still?

I don't mean literally standing still. Rather, I mean "still" as in living completely in the moment and not thinking about the next thing and the thing after that and the thing after that. I mean still as in able to focus completely on the here and now and leave everything else behind.

I've never been that kind of still. Well, I probably have been, but if so, it was too many years ago for me to remember. For the part of my life that I can remember, which began about the age of five, I've been moving. I moved through grade school into high school and work (I got my first job when I was 14). From there, I moved straight on to college and a major and a career path. From college, I moved  straight into a career that I did for five years. I never did that early-20s thing where you take a year or two to travel and "find yourself" or some such rot. From that career, I moved into a series of jobs and constantly thinking about finding a better one. And that's been the case for the last couple years.

And though I'm not really moving forward or progressing in the traditional sense (job hunting has been a long series of disappointments), I'm still moving, though in circles rather than forward.

I've never been still. I don't think I really know HOW to be still. I don't know how to stop moving forward. I don't know how to leave the past and the future behind and live entirely in the present. I don't know how to keep myself from worrying about what's next. I don't know how to turn my brain off and make the world stop just long enough for me to catch my breath.

One of the things that happens when you're unemployed or underemployed is that you often get asked "What do you want to do" or "What's your dream job." And whenever I get asked those questions, I don't have an answer because I honestly don't know. My ability to focus is gone. That's what happens when you don't take that time to be still.

We all need to be still from time to time. It's that time of stillness in which our brains can rest and reboot. Only in stillness can we really rid ourselves of all those things keeping us from focusing and/or being happy.

The problem, at least in this country, is that we don't put any sort of priority on being still. We're conditioned from an early age to just keep moving. Always be thinking about what's next. Always work for the next promotion at work and never be content to just work. Always be thinking about how your grades will either get you into or keep you from getting into your dream college.

But here's the issue. Our brains, while they are the most powerful computers on the planet, still need to be rebooted from time to time - just like normal computers. As with computers, giving our brains time to shut down and restart from time to time will allow them to operate better in the long run. And while most people I know are pretty diligent about taking care of their computers/tablets/whatever, none are as diligent about taking care of the computer inside their skull.

That's the real issue. We need to learn how to be still. Once that happens, I suspect we'll all be a lot happier.

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Filed under: Ruminations

Tags: job, job hunting, still


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