Movement & Stillness: Foundation of Resilience
Movement is essential to life. So is stillness. These create the dynamism of life, like the positive and negative poles of a battery. Movement and stillness are the rhythm of life; the activity of daytime and rest during the dark of night. Stillness is the warp of life — creating stability; movement the weft — the textures and color, weaving right to left, left to right. And together they create the fabric of our life.
If we have too much of one or the other, this creates imbalance, even ill health. We now hear how sitting too much is like smoking and contributes to a host of health dysfunctions. But also, over exercise can lead to serious health issues. We’ve all heard the stories of marathoners who collapse at the end of the marathon in cardiac arrest. I knew someone who developed chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction after years of cycling 20 miles a day. How can that be, most people say, weren’t they in great shape? In cases like these, the person’s commitment to movement has exceeded their body’s capacity to recover. Rest, a form of stillness, is essential to allow time for the muscles (the heart, of course being a muscle) and the systems of the body to recover after exertion. This allows the body to adapt to the new demands being placed on it. When we overexert compared to our actual capacity, ignoring our body’s signals, then things break down since they are not given the time and resources to restore. Though much more complex, similarly, with stress, burnout, or trauma, we need to take time to rest and recover. There’s also a saying going around that rest is a radical act in today’s culture which emphasizes and gives accolades for always being active, doing and achieving more and more.
In Chinese philosophy and medicine, these dynamic polarities of life — stillness and movement — are called yin and yang. The original character for yin depicts the shady side of a hill and for yang, the sunny side of a hill. In science, these dynamic polarities are used to create electricity. Psychology observes that two main components of our psyche are the conscious and unconscious; the seen and unseen or light and dark. They are simply two parts of a whole constantly interacting, interdependent, and changing.
Our body and psyche, being part of the natural world, follow the same rhythms as the seasons. In the longer, warmer days of summer we are naturally more active. Ancient Chinese sages advised their patients to follow the seasons and in winter, when it’s cold and dark with longer nights, to rest more and sleep longer. Just as seeds burrow deep in the ground in winter and deciduous trees shed their leaves and rest their energy deep in the earth, so do the energy flows of our body and psyche run deep in the winter. It’s a good time to conserve our energy and we are advised especially to not over exert. Winter can be a good time for meditation, reflection, and restorative practices.
Movement and stillness are dynamic polarities; the warp, weft, and rhythm of life. This is the constant ebb and flow of the tides, the seasons, our energy and creative expression. We are part of an ongoing dance, surfing waves; whatever metaphor you enjoy. Movement and stillness are the basic tools of resilience. This is facilitated by our awareness and ability to tune into ourselves and attune to our surroundings and those around us allows to know when and how much to move or rest; when to engage or withdraw. We are able to create boundaries around giving and receiving so we are not overwhelming others or depleting ourself.
Since we’re all unique, it's up to us to observe, know, and befriend our psyche, our nervous system, our bodies. What is our healthy capacity for exercise? For socializing, work, or play? Does it change with the seasons? It likely changes with our age — the season of life we are in. What do we notice and how can we adjust?
The Window of Tolerance is a model first developed by Daniel Siegel, MD to describe the window of arousal that is optimal for each of us. In a class with David Treleaven (author of Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness) he discussed this as a roadmap that we can use like a Goldilocks model to find the place that is just right. Where we can experience calm but not tired; we can be active but not anxious; we can be challenged to grow from our comfort zone without being overwhelmed. There can be a lot more to say about this but basically we can notice where the Window is for us where we can function well, be creative, and interact with ourselves and others in a way that feels healthy to us. How does your body feel, your mind, your emotions; your whole being feel when you’re in this zone? Make note of this.
And when you’re over working, over giving, over whelmed, over stressed; what helps you return to this Window of Tolerance so you can handle the stressors you are facing with more equanimity? But this Window is not a static entity— our Window of Tolerance may sometimes be smaller and sometimes larger and likely changing over time. The idea is that we can become aware of ourself and we are in constant relationship with ourself. Are we feeling over activated or feeling depleted? Are we doing too much or sitting too much? As we adjust — in the moment, for the season, or for our phase of life — we nourish, create, and build our resilience and our capacity to change, grow, heal, and adapt. We discover our personal capacity and dynamic flow and, with awareness and creativity, we adjust for life's ongoing changes throughout all our seasons.
Simple Awareness Exercise. Feel free to improvise.
• Take a quiet moment for yourself. Eyes open or closed.
• Gently bring your awareness to your breath, or to your heart, or to your belly; whatever feels most natural to you.
• Notice any sensations in your body, any feelings arising.
• Notice what is your level of activation right now? Are you feeling numb, still, calm, over activated, tired, open, closed, or something else?
• See if you can notice what this information is telling you. Not trying to change anything.
• Simply being with yourself and how you are right now in this moment.
• If it feels right; you can ask what do I need in this moment or in this phase of life? How is my balance of stillness and movement for this season of life?
In celebration of countless endings and beginnings,
From my heart to yours,
Life Resilience Coach & Founder, Women's Soulful Resilience Collective
As a Life Resilience Coach, I love working with purpose-driven women, like yourself, ready to deepen in your knowing and expression. You may be a life coach, wellness practitioner, or creative solopreneur. You may be struggling with overwork, overwhelm, or not sure about your next steps. You are ready to deepen in your growth, change direction, or grow your impact.
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