Original Link : https://medium.com/swlh/the-art-of-being-still-433df84091db
How embracing stillness in a world of constant distraction led to self discovery.
More often than not, I would get this deeply unsatisfied, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if something was missing in my life that I couldn’t quite articulate. Whenever I stopped and paused the busyness of my life, that feeling would surface — an uncomfortable, heavy ache that I could not escape from.
It’s a familiar feeling and before, I would reach for my phone and text somebody, or swipe, or scroll; but that was only a distraction and I knew deep down that it wasn’t the right thing to do now, not for the journey I had committed myself to.
Before leaving London, my counsellor advised me of the importance of sitting with uncomfortable emotions, the emptiness, the dissatisfaction of the present that made my palms itchy and my body restless. The discomfort was trying to tell me something and I knew I had to listen rather than distract myself with another wine, another YouTube video, another inane chat with a stranger from a dating app.
Why was I feeling so empty and lost? What was it that I was searching for? Was I expecting things — life — to happen so soon, so immediately? Was that even realistic?
“We cannot avoid the suffering of dissatisfaction by frequently changing our situation. We may think that if we keep getting a new partner or a new job, or keep travelling about, we will eventually find what we want; but even if we were to travel to every place on the globe, and have a new lover in every town, we would still be seeking another place and another lover. In Samsara [the cycle of impure life] , there is no fulfilment of our desires.” — Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, How to Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey, 2001
It takes more than words.
I’m a problem solver at heart. As an INFJ, I like to look at things, take in patterns, make connections and solve the problem at hand, for myself and other people. Sometimes I can see a problem and present multiple solutions in a matter of milliseconds.
So I tried analysing why I was feeling this way and tried to reconcile what I could. In an attempt at positive self-talk, I looked at what I did have going on in my life — opportunity, growth, youth, freedom, support. Somehow, it just seemed like a plaster. It didn’t get to the root of the problem.
I’m no longer of the belief that negative emotions or thought patterns can be changed by simply squashing them down and replacing them with positive affirmations and self-talk. I felt like I was lying to myself, like I was trying to tell myself that a blue pen was red. I had to take some sort of action.
I knew in my gut what was bothering me and the fact was that no matter how many positive affirmations I spun, I simply was not happy or confident with myself. And that was the root of the problem.
With this knowledge in mind, I was able to go about making decisions in my life that would help raise my self-esteem and self-worth. And it wasn’t just by simply telling myself a bunch of positive words.
I consciously made an effort to take notice when my mind descended into a pit of self-loathing and criticism when something went wrong, particularly at work. I am learning to be self-compassionate and kind, to treat myself as a good friend and to recognise that, yes, I do have some value. I learnt to accept my past and the reasons behind the decisions I made.
I am worthy enough to treat myself and have worked hard to buy myself nice things, such as that brand new car that I’ve been wanting for years. I deserve to take care of myself and my body. I am perfectly capable of ascending to the highest levels in my career. And no one should tell me otherwise, including myself.
The wisdom of no escape.
After four years of living and working in London, I moved back to Australia in January 2019 after an extremely tumultuous few years in my life that transformed me significantly. I was relieved to be back home amongst family and friends and, being freshly un-partnered, embraced the joy of solitude and the freedom it brought.
Yet I still yearned for some sort of escape. I often found myself looking back on my time in the UK wistfully and wished I was there, wandering the city, being with good friends, travelling Europe. My heart ached for a previous life; sitting on my bed in my room in the suburbs of Melbourne, I longed for an escape, for the freedom of that far away city, replete with opportunity and discovery.
I could have continued fantasising — I could have even chucked it all in again and moved back if I really wanted. But that would have been all too impulsive and wouldn’t have solved the immediate problem; it would have defeated the purpose of moving back in the first place. Because wherever you go in this world, you take yourself with you.
So I took each day as it came, riding out the long winter by going to work, going to the gym, spending time with family, and once in a while with friends. At the time that was all the energy I had for. I began to recall the extreme busyness of London, the commuting, the pollution, the expense of it all. Every place has its ups and downs.
And slowly, I began to adjust to the slower pace of life, and it hit me whilst sitting in front of a cafe sipping a cappuccino. Running away from my present life was not the solution. I accepted the situation and recalled my why. I told myself, “I am where I am, I came back for a reason and that was to settle back home and establish a sense of stability. Yes, there’s no other city like London, and in Melbourne, life is slower, but that’s okay.”
The power of singledom.
I’d left London an emotional and physical wreck. I was absolutely exhausted but after a few months back home coupled with a false sense of calm, I began to wonder whether I might be missing out on something. I was torn between the burning desire to be alone and be okay with that and the societal pressure I felt to be in a relationship, or at least be pursuing one with all my vigour.
So for the first half of the year, once in a while, I would download one or two apps, swipe, match with people, attempt conversation, realise I was wasting my time and then throw it all in and delete the app.
After doing this a few times, I made a conscious decision to opt-out of the online dating scene. In fact, I adopted quite an extreme minimalist approach to meeting people. There was an immense relief to my decision; however, I soon discovered that once I had chosen not to be in or be chasing a relationship of any kind, I found myself unsettled, searching for something but didn’t know what, if a partner wasn’t it.
I recalled my first year in London back in 2015, being incredibly lonely, spending much of my time wishing and longing to be somewhere different or to be with someone. Now looking back, I realise how foolishly wasted that time was by yearning to be somewhere else and not giving full respect and attention to the incredibly fortunate situation I was in. I didn’t realise the true gift that being in the present moment could bring.
As 2019 progressed and I found myself enjoying my own time more and more, I began to feel truly calm. I could have spent the rest of the year searching, being malcontent with my life because I wasn’t where I wanted to be or with whom I wanted to be, but the year would have gone to waste. Because in another four years’ time, I knew that I would look back and regret not truly cherishing my singledom and the power and freedom it could bring.
By embracing stillness, by not being tempted with distractions, by facing the discomfort of my emotional turmoil within, I made a realisation and was able to qualify my path ahead.
I wanted to be stable in myself and embody the strength, confidence, kindness and compassion that I knew was within, for myself and for others. I wanted to accept myself for all I am, flaws and blessings. I wanted to be calm and okay. I didn’t want to react impulsively or angrily or let my thoughts consume me.
I just want to be, without any pressure to do anything or be anything other than my purest form of self. And I do not want to let anybody or anything sway me from this path.
It is all too easy in this world of modern technology and constant connection to distract ourselves from the discomfort of our emotions. Instead of exploring the root of the problem from within, we tend to seek external comforts to distract ourselves from the pain we might uncover. But that is not the solution. In the new year, I invite you to journey on the path of embracing stillness, to overcome the want for distractions and to explore your inner self in an effort to uncover the root of what may be causing any emotional discomfort you may have. Only when this exploration has taken place can you take the first steps to living a calmer, peaceful, happier life and cherishing the present moment without regrets.