Sunday, July 11, 2010

Getting Rid of Stillness Muscle Atrophy (Still, Part 2)

A few weeks ago, I lost my way.

I'm a top-down thinker.  I go from the big picture to the details.  That's the way I set goals. too.  I have a long term goal to provide a rich, nourishing, optimal learning environment at home for my children.  I think about who I want them to be (thinkers, creative, etc) and I back track to today, and work my plan.  This particular goal is easy for me because the plan involves things I flat out enjoy.  I love reading the books with my kids, wondering what will happen next (since I hated reading these books when I was in school!) and I'm beside myself with joy figuring out why teaching expressive language to a child with autism should not be taught like you are teaching a second language (I'll post on that soon).  I guess I'm a nerd... though it took 20+ years after  high school to figure it out.  I enjoy the journey, and am filled with gratitude as I explore all that can happen in the moment.  I'm all about the journey to the destination.

I've always heard that I should set goals and have a clear definite purpose, so I'm constantly setting, refining, clarifying, crystalizing,... I like this about myself.  For the most part, it has worked for me, except.... Some destinations involve action steps that I really don't enjoy.  Teflon commented that he moves faster when he's in destination mode.  I move faster in destination mode when I don't like the interim steps.  I walk really fast in the winter!  So my goal oriented focus works for me except when I'm engaging big deal goals that have interin steps I don't like because I switch into destination mode.  Destination mode is where I look faaar into the distance, squinting my eyes and thinking, Hurry!! You'll never get there!

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  I lost my way.  A few big destinations that I am focussed on felt like they disappeared.  When I'm doing destination focussed behavior, not savoring the moments, and I lose sight of the destination, I panic.  It feels as if I have nothing, after all, I wasn't focussed on the journey.  It's like trudging through a desert on the way to the oasis and it disappears.  Stillness evaporated.  Chaos erupted.

Regaining Stillness Muscles
Thanks Tef.  The reminder about journey focus vs destination focus helped me shift things around tremendously.  When I'm doing my savoring the moment, being present and being full of gratitude, my stillness muscles get worked.  For a micro-second, I pause to notice the beauty in that micro-second.  I'm still.  On the other hand, when I'm doing a destination focus, my stillness muscle becomes underutilized.  Doing that for too long leads to atrophy!

I'm rebuilding my stillness muscles and like any skill acquisition strategy, frequency (how often do you train?), duration (how long is your training session?) and intensity (what is the quality of the training routine?) are all factors.  I'm training these muscles from the outside in, so my routine starts with the body and adds mental strategies:

  • I slow my breathing down, take deeper breathes and reflect with gratitude on this ability
  • I think about my muscles and deliberately relax any muscled that jump to my attention
  • I take a quick self-care inventory (Did I drink any water recently?  Did I take my supplements?  Do I need to jump on the trampoline?) and respond to whatever I notice.             

The Value of Stillness
While taking a breath today, quieting my insides, being still,  I remembered what I believe. A supportive belief is like a good friend, like a refreshing drink, a welcome sight.   Here are 2 things I remembered today.
  1. The destination doesn't really disappear.  Maybe it gets covered by a cloud, maybe my glasses fell off while bending over to find something and I can't see beyond my nose temporarily,  maybe there is too much internal noise and I can't hear the music from the destination.  Whatever the case is, it has not disappeared.  When I see it again, it may look different (since the destination is my own creation, I might see something else when I get my glasses back on) but it's still there.
  2. Learning everything I can learn on the journey IS a part of my destination!  A few weeks ago, a friend posted the question "destination or journey?" on facebook. I commented that I choose the journey.  She asked why and I replied:  Because paying attention to your journey moment by moment, extracting the learnings from every second, slowing yorself down to be grateful for the fact that you are on a journey, noticing the flowers, being curious about the weeds, helping the guy on the side of the road, all make the journey AMAZING which in turn makes the destination AMAZING!
So I'm being still with a vengeance for a little while!  Who knows what else I'll remember!

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