The Fine Line Between Being Still & Being Stagnant
Most of us cannot bare the concept of being still. Much like silence, moments devoid of content make us squeamish. We have to do something, say something, anything; we feel awkward otherwise.
But, if given the chance, these still moments are not as empty as they may appear. Contrarily, they are rich with discovery and abundant with inspiration.
These moments are not a waste of time—they are a preventative remedy from squandered moments and misused energy. These moments are not defined by purposeless passivity— they are defined by progressive patience. All of which in turn paves the way for a fertile foundation in which to plant seeds of productivity.
What is the difference between stillness and stagnancy?
It is the moment filled with fruitless content that is effectually empty, though it masks itself as otherwise under the guise of distracting busyness. Here lies the pivotal but often unrecognized fine line between being still and being stagnant.
Being still utilizes time as an inspiring platform for productivity, while being idle passes time with futile distractions, impending stagnancy, and is often the gateway drug for unproductive busyness. Idleness yields no measurable milestones of progress, though energy and time may have been exhausted, but more importantly wasted.
Movement still exists in a still mind because it is mentally growing towards a goal before it physically does. This mental step before the physical step is often a necessary premeditation so that we don’t end up having to do as much backtracking and rerouting.
Meanwhile, stagnancy can still occur in a busy mind, because all of that movement is not actually going towards anywhere of consequence.
Clarity comes after yielding to vulnerability | Paced outlasts haste
We spend so much time distracted by busying ourselves with purposeless futility or directionless movement that we miss the opportunity to find peace and clarity, refuge from the chaos of a busy world. We betray our own progress and fulfillment when we saturate our lives with unfulfilling clutter. We may not be physically idle, but we are progressively so. There is power in the ability to be still.
We betray our own progress and fulfillment when we saturate our lives with unfulfilling clutter. We may not be physically idle, but we are progressively so. There is power in the ability to be still in the midst of chaos.
Perhaps stillness makes us feel vulnerable—as if we are losing ground or sacrificing efficiency. But this powerful vulnerability, when executed productively, is just as progressive as physical movement.
But an even pace wins the race.
Pardon my cliche moral reference here, but our childhood fables are timeless for a reason. When facing the decision to emulate the Tortoise or the Hare, we should always know who to pick.
Vulnerability is perfected in the ability to quiet the restlessness and urgency of the relentless voice in our head screaming “Are we there yet?” That ability to be vulnerable, to be still, to quiet the rushed expectation, translates into inspired persistence and clarified purpose, thus engendering more momentum and headway than could ever possibly come from the impending crash and burn of the busybody. It is a real life application of the cliché Tortoise and the Hare. Not only is it ok to pace yourself in this busy world; it is necessary.
Life often requires our journey to be punctuated with pauses, as these are the best places for renewed inspiration and motivation. When we feel despondent, but refuse to pause to catch our breath, we burn out, ultimately losing the entire sight and purpose for which we had initially set out towards. And thus we sabotage our journey, losing our own race to no one else but ourselves.
Being still keeps us from being distracted or getting lost simply because we are too headstrong to stop and ask for directions or catch our breath.
It saves us time and gas in the long run by allowing peace and rest to guiltlessly exist along an exhausting odyssey.
Progressively speaking, we can more accurately identify idleness as lack of forward movement but full of busyness. Think of a car that is idling. An idle car may have the keys in the ignition, the radio going, gas burning and be going nowhere at all. It is sitting in park. There is no movement, although there is ample wasteful kinetic activity.
Being still, however, fertilizes a mental clarity and visual direction without wasting gas and aimlessly shaving minutes off the clock. So, the analogical car embodies stillness by pulling over and waiting patiently as the driver seeks proper direction rather than continuing down the wrong path for fear of being stagnant. Then when it revs up the engine again, it has all of the energy and clarity necessary to continue more efficiently towards its destination.
Once your stillness has filled its purpose, get moving
The only requisite that accompanies stillness is to not to get comfortable there because it can easily mutate into idleness. Once there is clarity, peace, and direction it is time to take this new introspective movement and translate it into kinetic and progressive movement.
Idleness is the author of our restlessness. While stillness is the author of our peace. When we are idle, that is when we atrophy. When we are still that is when we grow. An idle mind is soil for negativity. A still mind gives root to positivity. Idleness is where you lose yourself and stillness is where you are found. Stillness is assertive, leaving you in control while idleness is passive, yielding your reigns to whatever may take them.
Once you have found what you needed, and you will know when you do, continue on.
To summarize the merits of stillness and the mutant version, stagnancy-
3 things to know about stillness:
•Know when it’s time to take pause
One of life’s key indicators to pump the brakes is stress. Stress can even be healthy when it is treated correctly. Many times, our first reaction to stress is to kick everything into overdrive in order to combat stress when we are actually simply intensifying it. Stress is a signal to regain peace. It is an opportunity to refocus. Another break-pumping indicator is
Another break-pumping indicator is lack of direction, vision or both. We may feel the need to keep running towards some unknown goal simply to keep moving toward what we hope is forward, but it is completely futile and counterproductive to keep running in a lost state. This is when you take a moment to find peace. Once peace settles the chaos that arises from being lost, it is amazing how much clearer our direction becomes.
•Know the value of peace
It is easy in today’s society to get wrapped up in the natural chaos that is consistently perpetuated throughout our experiences; so easy, in fact, that we identify it as normal and that anything divergent from that constant action must be dull and wrong.
But we forego peace when we commit to these chaotic lifestyles. And peace is a necessary habit, a cornerstone virtue to achievement. Those who can master peace among chaos maintain those peaceful habits regardless of circumstance.
•Know your best peace inducing activities
What are you doing when you are most at peace? What settles your soul? Meditation, reading a book, taking a walk, writing in a journal, listening to music? Whatever it is, wherever your peaceful place is, when life demands peace, go there and be still.
Read the other parts in this series:
Images both found on Tumblr
Also published on Medium.