I used to believe that with the right amount of effort, therapy, money, discipline, and time, I would achieve the perfect state and then maintain it. I would live in the right town, in the perfect house, with the right person, drive the right car to the perfect job, be the right weight, achieve the perfect hairstyle, have the furniture arranged and the yard landscaped just right . . . and then hold that pose – forever! Perfect! Permanent!
But not possible. Nothing is ever standing still. My body moves involuntarily with every breath, my heart pumps without my conscious consent, my cells are factories in constant production. Even when I die, my body will not be still, as decay takes over and every atom moves on to become part of something else. The earth on which I stand spins at nearly 1,000 miles per hour, one small mover in a vast expanding universe.
Plenty of movement is required simply to sustain life. But the time and place where I live has “progressed” to a state far beyond simple sustenance. I can get anywhere in the world in a matter of hours or days, learn about anything with a few mouse clicks, communicate my ideas through a plethora of instant media options. Because so much is possible, it takes plenty of energy for me simply to sift through it all, to decide what I will do, buy, wear, eat; and to deal with my own and other people’s expectations and reactions to my choices.
With all this motion around and within me, I find deep healing in the disciplines of rest and reflection. Rest is not perfect stillness, but a deliberate slowing down, setting aside the oars and moving with the water rather than forcing my way through. Reflection is not absolute silence, but a thoughtful tuning out of the noises I ordinarily attend to, so that I can listen to the echoes of the recent moments through which I’ve moved.
Beneath all the layers of progress-driven sound and light, life is still a flowing river. The more I try to hold a living thing in a freeze-frame squeeze, the more energy I must expend – and even as I inflict any level of un-natural stasis upon that thing – be it my face, a relationship, a belief system or a zucchini, it slowly begins to wither in my grasp – or speeds up the natural rhythms that end in death, another way of saying the same thing.
This is why the bugs and baby bunnies my daughter captures usually convalesce until either they are released or they die. It explains why my marriage has suffered seasons of stagnancy, and why the fresh greens I stash in my refrigerator often need to be re-classified as compost.
Healthy living things are always growing. Evolution is the heartbeat of life. We deny the goodness of life when we try to force living things to stand still. Paradoxically, we affirm the goodness of life when we regularly and deliberately slow the pace we’ve picked up trying to keep up with those Joneses, and choose instead to move with the rhythm of the forces that sustain us.