Learning to be Still – Tips from Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb, an author and writing coach, writes a blog that I follow, and she recently posted an essay: Quiet: Have We Forgotten to Be Still in a World That Never Stops. 

When I read the title, I was intrigued, mainly because I have always struggled with being still. Quiet. Sitting and doing… nothing. Perhaps because my grandmother told us kids that doing nothing was wasting time. We should be productive all the time, and she always was, quilting, hooking rugs, or working in her large garden.

To emulate my grandmother, I thought, was making me a better person. 

Maybe, or maybe not. 

While I did gain a strong work ethic, I lost a little bit of the joy of just sitting on Grandma’s porch swing and daydreaming. Or even taking a little nap out there. When I went out to the swing, she’d always encourage me to take my clarinet to practice, or take some hand work. “Don’t be idle.” Reminding me of the devil and idle hands and all that.

What Kristen had to say about the importance of quiet and stillness is quite interesting, and I’m going to share parts of her post here. I do encourage you to hop over to her blog and read it all after you finish here. You’ll love her illustrations. They’re so clever.

Flowers have mastered the joy of stillness.

Now here are some thoughts from Kristen:

Though study after study empirically demonstrates that humans are not created to be ‘perpetual doing machines,’ the data does little to deter our world’s increasing determination to pile more on our plate.

Multi-tasking, email overload, meetings, meetings to discuss meetings, deadlines, through-lines, pipelines, downlines.

Our workplace has begun reflecting our world…borderless. The 9-5 workday is relic of our not-so-distant-past.

In 1989, we got mail…in a mailbox or in a ‘finite’ In-Box (which was a LITERAL BOX). We could leave work at work, read our mail and see our in-boxes actually EMPTY.

When we got home, if we wanted? We could ‘take the phone off the hook.’ The younger folks might have to look that up. We had evenings of QUIET. Restorative time.

Now? We wake daily to digital avalanches. Data poured over us from reservoirs with limitless capacity, all dumped into a human brain that can only hold so much. Our In-Boxes never empty…ever.

Since we aren’t ‘finished’ we take work home. Work bulges over its boundaries into our marriages and family lives where we check our phones instead of paying attention to what our significant other is saying or our children are asking. We do all of this because we are ‘working hard,’ but are we?

No. I can tell you for a fact, since I am a Corporate America refugee.

This same ideology has oozed into the schools. Every moment crammed with no time for reflection or play.

Then, children emulate what they see from their parents. We’re plugged in nonstop, seemingly unable to be still or quiet. How are they going to fare?

I’m sure you’ve heard of pain management, but REST is brain management. A lot of y’all might be like me and believe if you’re not doing something every minute of every waking hour you’re—GASP—lazy! *screams* Yet, again neuroscience to the rescue.

Our brains frankly never turn off.

All the writers TESTIFY!

In fact, when we rest, nap, sleep, or even take power naps or do mini-meditations, our brains shift over to what’s referred to as the default mode network.

According an article by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American, Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime : ‘…the default mode network is especially active in creative people. It’s believed that the default mode network may be able to integrate more information from a wide range of brain regions in more complex ways than when the brain is consciously working through a problem.’

That may be why we writers get ideas in the middle of the night or as we are trying to stop for a nap. I’ve been getting a lot of those recently – naps and ideas – and I am glad for technology that allows me to dictate that idea in an e-mail to myself with my phone, then get back to doing nothing. 

Does that happen to you, too – getting ideas when you aren’t at the keyboard in writing mode? Do you use distraction to help you sort out a plot tangle? A friend of mine swore that doing dishes or dusting was the best way to pull those threads together.

Wishing everyone a productive week. Be safe. Be happy.

And if you want to try some relaxing in between bouts of work, here is a link to some relaxing music. 

This link to Freedom Genesis shows some easy Yoga poses for relieving stress. I was pleased to see many of the poses I learned recently listed there. You can do most of them in bed or in a chair, which is good for those of us who have trouble getting up from the floor. No trouble getting down. 🙂

Another link for some relaxing techniques, including the deep breathing of Yoga that is so beneficial for reducing stress

2 thoughts on “Learning to be Still – Tips from Kristen Lamb”

  1. I walk two miles most mornings and that’s when so many of my stories take shape. I speak to fellow walkers, but I go right back into the scene of my current book. I love that time.

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