Joy and knowledge

On stillness

Most days, I crave stillness. The kind that emulates those moments in movies where the main character stops and looks out, all action blurring around them in a moment of connection, of truth, of seeing. Between you, you’ve arrived at a place of knowing.

Some days, if I’m lucky, I manage to create some semblance of it through meditation or movement. But it’s more effortful and contrived than I’d like. In these moments, locating stillness feels like forcing two magnets together that can’t help but repel. Before the stillness has settled enough for me to notice it, my mind skitters off into a distant land, drawing me hopelessly with it.

On a few days a year, if I create the space and conditions for its arrival, I achieve stillness in its fullest sense. Saturday was one of those days.

I am currently and have been for most of my teen and adult life, someone who finds that interactions with humans are accompanied by a myriad of stresses. I reject the judgement of others whilst simultaneously holding concern over how I’m being perceived. I plan for the smallest of conversations. I choose not to plan and wonder, ‘What if I had’. I talk for longer than I should, editing as I go, preoccupied with whether I’m being understood. I respond in a jumble, certain that I have been misunderstood but unable to correct in time. I abandon my fear and speak openly, often wondering if I should have edited after all. I’m learning to turn my self-view off. I’m attempting to say something once and then ask, what do you think? I’m discovering the safe spaces, conditions and interactions where these worries ebb away or are utterly unable to locate an entrance.

Humans, for me, rarely produce stillness within me or without. Aloneness is a space I’ve learned to cultivate. Cherished time away from all the jangling discordance of other voices, energies, and beings. Some days, writing or walking can offer me a momentary glimpse of my own self, my own light, my own knowing. On occasion, the quality of this stillness arrives unexpectedly and without effort. Invited in by what? Ideal conditions? Alignment of body and mind? Some higher power? Saturday was one of those days.

Since my solo trip to Scotland last year, I’m choosing to commit to finding regular spaces where adventure is possible, building my confidence, consciousness, and capacity for joy. This weekend was my latest dedicated window of discovery. Let me transport you there.

After a coastal walk where I follow my feet in an unplanned way, I arrive at woodland and a steep set of wooden steps. I descend steps upon steps until my underused muscles become rather vocal before, at last, I stagger across stones towards sand and sea. I wander towards the lapping shore. I glance around me. Inhale deeply, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4. Exhale fully 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Close my eyes and enjoy the warm sun on my face and shoulders. There is tranquillity here. I pace a few steps back and drape my coat on the ground. I flop down, locate chocolate, and consume greedily whilst surveying the scene. A family, a dog, a ball being passed. Distant walkers. Breath returned to normal, I lay back and gaze overhead. I take in the endless blue sky with only seagulls squalling. I am soothed by the predictable waves gently lapping. I absorb the ground beneath my limbs. My life falls away from reach. My mind searches for lurking worry and finds none to grasp. Everything blurs and melts around the edges. Me. There you are. Hello. Me. Enough. Am. Are. Be. Exist. Me and you beach. Me and you sea. Me and you sky. Me and you. Me. Welcome home. I’ve missed you, my love.

Afterwards, the effects linger as an acceptance of myself, a calm certainty about my life, and an opening for my needs and wants to trickle in. If I choose to set down the ever-present doubts that bounce at the edges, this feels like an answer of sorts. A possibility of sorts. A closer than I was to my knowing.

Journeying to my latest adventure this weekend, I listened to an episode of Hurry Slowly. In it, Prentis Hemphill offers much wisdom in their conversation with Jocelyn Glei. Prentis offers an enticing call to action: ‘Find a way to belong with yourself, even if you don’t feel belonging elsewhere.’ Seeking connection, knowing and a home outside of myself has so far proven elusive. Instead of running from and rejecting myself, perhaps I’ll trust in nurturing my inner belonging for a while. For the first time, I believe that the home I can create there might well be one worth inhabiting.

A grey and blue beach scene with the sun and shining through swirling clouds and cliffs in the distance
Wooden and earth steps leading to pebbles and then sand and the sea. Framed on either side by hedges and trees.
Sunrise over sea with cliffs to the right

Scarborough, North Yorkshire, April 2023

Inspired by…

Mindful Movement for the Mind: Guided Journalling with Sasha Glasgow for My Mindful Movement

Much reading has influenced this moment. Here is some of it:

‘Now that I am more able to be with myself, I seek those I can be with completely without losing myself.’ Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation.

‘Today is the first day of the rest of it.’ Lines from dankyes (Mwaghavul), Yrsa Daley-Ward, bone.

‘In a world so filled with voice, how to ever be sure of your own? We are drowning in so many hows that we cannot find our-selves; and when all we are told is that we do not know how, all that we feel is weight.’ Yrsa Daley-Ward, The How: Notes on the great work of meeting yourself.

‘what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice: Excuse me, I have work to do.’ Lines from I go down to the shore, Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings.

‘Our human essence lies not in arrival, but in being almost there: we are creatures who are on our way… the step between not understanding that and understanding that, is as close as we get to happiness.’ Lines from Close, David Whyte, Essentials.

‘Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that first, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart.’ Lines from The Journey, David Whyte, Essentials.

‘It struck me that this is why we say to people, “Calm down.” Because beneath the noise of the pounding, swirling surf is a place where all is quiet and clear.’ Glennon Doyle, Untamed: stop pleasing, start living.

‘Burn the house down in search of yourself. don’t you dare ever stop looking. don’t you dare ever think you won’t be worth the finding.’ F. D. Soul, Between You and These Bones



My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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