Mountain Mama on Cultivating Stillness

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I’m tucking into a dark cave for the next week to birth my book. Five years after writing the first sentence, I’m finally ready to finish editing. My four-year-old son is at his dad’s house, the stack of bills paid, and my accelerated life put on hold. There’s nothing but my computer, lots of frozen pizza, chocolate, and a box of red wine.

Part of me is tempted to use this unencumbered, child-free time to rush off on another adventure, to cram in as many experiences in as possible.  Another impulse, a quieter one, beckons.

I crave stillness.

I’ve come to the realization that sometimes doing more creates so much noise in my head that I have a difficult time discerning the meaning buried underneath all my experiences.  Piling activity upon activity numbs me to the very thing I seek – a bold life.

One of my favorite author’s, Cheryl Strayed, nailed it when she wrote about negative space. “One of the basic principals of every single art form has to do not with what’s there – the music, the words, the movement, the dialogue, the paint – but with what isn’t.” She explains how the blank space, the pauses, and the stillness give meaning to art by adding impact to what is there.

I spent most of my twenties and early thirties chasing the next outdoor high. From helicopter kayaking in New Zealand to a month of sea kayaking in Baja, I prioritized experiences with as few pauses as possible. That period in my life culminated with a cross-country road trip that eventually ended with me settling in Western North Carolina and solo-parenting my son.

Until then, it escaped me that for my life to reach its highest potential, I must also cultivate stillness.  I’ve spent the past five years sifting through those times, sometimes resonating on a single day for months. The time I’ve spent writing about my life has added an intimacy and depth that I would have never known otherwise.

Reflecting and writing has given me a certain sense of clarity about the person I was and the distance I still must travel to become the woman I want to be.

Going inward has empowered me to rewrite my story, creating something I’ll be proud for my son to one day read.

Sometimes sitting still can be excruciating. I’m plagued by the constant sense of missing out on something fun. I feel guilty for not using free time to be with my son or nurture friendships.

By denying the on-demand access so expected in our society, I’ll be able to return in a week with a lot more to offer others. Instead of showing up tired, distracted, and exhausted, I’ll come back invigorated and fully present.

That’s the true gift of going nowhere.

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