Being still doesn’t necessarily mean being still.

I used to think that being still meant sitting down and not moving. Eyes shut to avoid distractions, or eyes looking at stuff that I find helpful to stillness, like a blank wall, or a river, or an open sky – stuff that looks peaceful and isn’t cluttered. Hands on my lap, not doing anything. It’s how I used to pray, but these days I find it works less well for me. Going for the eyes shut option, I often nod off (getting older, I suppose). Keeping my eyes open, I’m distracted by what I see – maybe because I’ve started to get into photography, and I keep having ideas… Even a blank wall is a potential subject now…

But doodling, I find, helps me to focus. And writing a Bible verse down but writing it slowly, in a doodly fashion, concentrating on making the letters pretty means I stay with it for a while, spend more time with it, and it kind of seeps into my mind and starts sprouting thoughts.

I wasn’t really thinking specifically about prayer though, I was thinking about stillness in general. It’s something I need not just for hearing God but also for hearing myself – I need time to let my thoughts go round in my head, time for ideas to come, to develop, to become something I can use. Sometimes I lie in bed for a long while after waking up, letting my thoughts go round, only jotting down specific things that I feel I need to grab hold of.

I keep hearing creative friends talk about the need to disconnect from the internet for a while and I recognise that need, I know I can’t be creative if I’m constantly consuming, reading, responding, engaging in conversation even if it’s online and not face to face. (I do find online conversations a lot easier, but even these require something from me.) I love online social networking (Google+ is wonderful!) but I have to find the right balance for me, and this balance can shift – there are times when I need to withdraw more, times when I need to engage more, times when I need to engage but limit that to just a small bunch of people who are closer to me. There are times when I do hit and run posts, throwing a picture at my audience without saying much, or just saying something short and silly, like “cheese”, and leaving people to have fun in the comments without any need for me to add anything. Then there are times when I rant and/or ramble and there’s no stopping me then…

I’ve learned that I have to exercise self-discipline, to think before I open that browser tab, to get up from the computer now and again and think: what is it that I need right now? or: what is it that I should be doing? (I say should, because if there’s something God wants me to be doing and I’m avoiding it, I’ll have no peace until I get to it.) Going with the flow is a recipe for burn out – I have to keep checking, and consciously deciding what I’m going to do rather than just following the easy route.

And now and again, what I need is to get up from the computer and go spend time reading a book or messing around with a colouring-in book or… all sorts of things which enable me to be still, and to reconnect with my own thoughts. Creative stuff often comes from that place of stillness. But it’s not stillness as in sitting still and doing nothing – it’s stillness as in being quiet and doing something at a slow pace, something that doesn’t mean tons and tons of stimulus coming at me all the time. It’s probably at least partly because I’m an introvert. Anyway, it’s how I am and what works for me – but it’s something I have to constantly work at, it won’t happen without my deliberate effort. It requires discipline, and it requires a willingness to risk people thinking I’m being anti-social, calling me a stuck-up cow, even unfollowing me. I have to do what I have to do. I absolutely cannot please everybody all the time. I’m only human.

3 thoughts on “Being still doesn’t necessarily mean being still.

  1. I recently watched a video of Dario Nardi talking about brain activity and how it’s related to personality type. (I posted about it to the INTJ group here – .) Different parts of our brain activate depending on what we’re doing, but also different parts of our brain activate depending on our personality type and how we process data or make decisions.

    What was particularly interesting was something Dario talked about regarding when a person’s whole brain would activate for a period of time at a heightened, but focused, level. It seemed like he was describing some kind of zen moment. But what was particularly fascinating was that different personality types reached this heightened but focused stage different ways. Some could reach it and maintain it for long periods of time when listening closely to someone. Other people reached it when they were working on a puzzle. He gave several examples. Some would only have a flash of that focused, all brain action while others sustained it for up to 10 minutes.

    I think this fits in with what you’re talking about here. Some people can sit still and it really means that they’ll settled and their brains can focus on one task (like praying) or one thought (like meditating on a single verse). But other people focus better when they’re doing something (like doodling). I take knitting with me to church services because I will hear a lot more of the sermon if I’m knitting than if I’m not. (Last Sunday I was so caught up in an idea that I managed to outline an entire book I’d like to write. I’m not sure what the sermon was on. I think it had something to do with being meek or something. It was a beatitude. I know that much.)


    • That’s really interesting – yes, I can do that very focused concentration when I’m listening to someone, if they’re sharing deep stuff and need to be listened to. (I can’t if they’re just prattling on about minor details.) The weird thing is that I seem to have changed over time – I never used to need to doodle or anything like that, I remember you mentioning the knitting and I didn’t really understand it but now I do. (I also know someone who does cross-stitch whilst listening to sermons, for the same kind of reason.) (Though with sermons I find I can usually keep focused, just jotting down the odd thought or important point that I want to keep hold of.)


  2. The problem with having a gajillion tabs open on your browser is that when you finally do get around to reading what’s on a tab, you usually can’t for the life of you remember where you got the link from. This post says so exactly what I was trying to say before, that it seems like I should have gotten it from this post as people came in and had further discussion. But I came back here and found this isn’t where I got the link after all. And yet it fits in so perfectly. So go check this out. It says what I said only better, and more focused on a personality type closer to yours than to mine.


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