Spring in Melbourne is so changeable and winter this year had seemed particularly long. I went out for a drive on the first fine warm day after a week of rain and cold. I put the top down on the car and allowed the sun to warm my skin. This is one method I often use to embrace the present and feel more in touch with what is happening around me. Rather than turn left at the bottom of the road, I went right to explore a part of the bay area that I hadn’t previously seen. After driving about 15 kilometres to Flinders I parked looking out towards Phillip Island. I needed to stop and invite stillness into my day, but I found it hard to do so.
The morning had been busy – organised a new learning plan, took part in a weekly podcast, had a one-to-one discovery session with a potential client – and I’d come out on this drive to be refreshed. But I found stopping hard. I wanted to embrace the present so, even though I was tempted to get my phone out and check emails, or play Words with Friends, or look at Facebook, I resisted reaching into my bag. I wanted to get out of the car and go for a walk, but I knew I needed to just stop, to be still. It was very hard to just be still.
But…I did. I stopped. Just sat in the car and looked out at the ocean. I tried to think, to put words to what I was seeing, to what I was feeling, but I realised that this was just another way of doing something, so I stopped. I just stopped, I was still, and embraced the present moment.
Invite stillness, and see what is happening
And, interestingly, it was not long – only minutes – before I started noticing things that I hadn’t previously seen. The couple in the car next to me were having a conversation and I could catch snippets of words through the open windows. I wanted them to be quiet and as I looked across to their car I noticed a blue wren hopping on the ground between our two cars. A blue wren. Brilliant blue, long tail flashing in the sun.
The wren skittered to the bushes that lined the car park. I tried to get a photo, but he was too fast. So, I just sat, and watched. The wren disappeared into the bushes and a seagull wheeled in and perched on the fence – no doubt hoping that someone in the cars ranged along the fence would have some hot chips or a piece of bread to share.
Then it happened. The blue wren flew out of the bushes and hopped along the road right next to my car. He bobbed his head, hunting the ants that scurried across the pebbled tarmac. His head and back flashed blue in the sun. What a gift – in the present – which i would have missed if I had not invited stillness into my life.
For the next 15 or 20 minutes I just looked. And I noticed the white caps on the waves far out on the bay. I watched the flock of birds wheeling and dipping against the pale blue spring sky. I saw the woman who stopped only long enough to take three snapshots of the view and the minibus of tourists who were given a lesson about the history of the bay.
Invite stillness to embrace the present in a new way.
And then, I felt it was okay to move on to the next beach. Here I walked with my eyes closed, listening and feeling. Without sight to guide me, I allowed this present to embrace me. Over the gentle shush of the waves I heard the plip of tiny foam bubbles breaking as each small wave spilled onto the shore. The wind seemed to blow right through me. I felt as if it blew through my soul, washing away what I no longer needed. The sand sloped beneath my feet, and I was aware of the different angles at which I placed my feet. It was easy to lose my balance without sight to guide and steady me.
It’s not easy to find the time to be still in our busy days. But this afternoon made me realise that if I am to embrace the present I must actively and intentionally invite stillness into my life. It was not easy to stop, to be still. I resisted the pull of stillness. But I knew I had to find some way of inviting it into my life, because without those moments of stillness I would be unable to truly embrace the present, as my head would be well into the future, planning the next thing to do.
Invite stillness, intentionally.
What do you do, what can you do, to invite stillness into your life?
Not everyone can take a walk on the beach. But I know we each can find ways to invite even a moment of stillness into our lives. Then we can become more aware of what is happening right at this present moment. I am convinced that without intentionality towards stillness – of body, of mind, of soul – we can never truly embrace the present and enjoy what is taking place in our lives at this very time.
I’d love to hear what you do to embrace the present, to intentionally invite stillness into your life. Let me know what you do in the comments below.
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