Progress is always happening. There’s the notion that if you aren’t constantly moving then you are staying in place. And with that comes the thought that if you are staying in place, you are somehow wasting your life. I wholeheartedly reject both of these ideas. I believe that there can be much growth in stillness, and you can have effective stillness by becoming more aware of things you don’t normally pay attention to.
In increasing your awareness, be attentive to two things: your surroundings, and yourself in the present moment. Simultaneously broaden your gaze and fine tune your focus on these two things. To become aware of your surroundings, find that one piece of the world that reminds you of your existence. For me, that piece of the world is the sky. When I have a lot on my mind, I look down. I don’t do it out of shyness, rather it has become a mindless habit that I am desperately trying to fix. Not only will it lead to neck wrinkles, but it’s mentally ineffective. But I’ve noticed that when I look at the sky, I gain so much more mental clarity. I enjoy looking at the moon, the stars, clouds in the daytime, and colors at sunset. It makes me feel more like a person. When you find that piece of the world for yourself, take time out to become aware of it in times of mental cloudiness. See if you feel any differently.
To be aware of yourself in the moment, think about what’s happening to you. What are you doing? What are others doing? How did you get here, and what are your next steps? Often we have so much to do that we run on auto-pilot. That’s not always a bad thing, but I find that after too much automated thoughtless movement, my actions start to lose intention and I begin to question myself. When I take the time to check in with myself, I think about what are the benefits and drawbacks to what I’m doing and I consider what it is I want, and if my current actions can get me there. By becoming aware of myself, I am able to eliminate unnecessary movements, and feel more purpose in the things that I do.
In law school, my Mondays are quite difficult. I have 5 classes, from 9:40 am to 4:00 pm with only an hour break at 1. I go from class to class, read cases and eat lunch during the break, then study, eat dinner, and go to sleep. On these days, it’s very easy for me to become mindless and as a result somewhat negative. But the times when I make an effort to be aware of my surroundings and myself, my day becomes less about the grind and more about the goal. I might not physically do anything different, or get any more checked off my to do list, but by moving with more intention everything becomes easier, more doable, and perhaps even a little more positive.
Next time you find yourself in a mindless grind, try to insert a moment of still awareness and see what happens. I would love to hear your experiences. If you take the time to become more aware in moments of inaction, you might experience a feeling of more significance in times of action. It’s obvious that the more you do, the more is done, but there is a lot of value in “doing nothing”.