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Just Sitting

Author | Nicole Hostetter

I remember the long days of early summer before kids clamored for a sprinkler to be turned on. Before a yard demanded my attention — unfurling its tender bounty gloriously, and unceasingly, under the nourishing light of a long-lingering sun. Before the needs of a full-sized house filled up my free moments with constant cleaning, minding, and maintaining.

Before all this, there was a small furnished first apartment tucked into a side street of a small town. And me, on a borrowed couch, staring at the ceiling, or out the screen door at a messy Rose of Sharon bush dropping its petals onto the porch. Windows open. Cat on my lap. Not thinking. Not worrying. Not planning ahead or remembering what came before. Just sitting.

Sometimes for an hour.

Sometimes for just five minutes.

Almost two decades later it’s sometimes more difficult to find the time to feel so free. Children and housework and errands and life get in the way. So I am more deliberate now about setting time aside for this quiet awareness. Usually it’s after the kids have gone to bed and my husband goes for his run. But sometimes it’s right when I open my eyes in the morning. Sometimes it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store. Sometimes it’s when I hold my crying son after he’s fallen in the driveway and scraped his tender knees.

These early summer days are a perfect time to discover this refuge for yourself. To see yourself as the yellow lily in the garden, or the cloud against the blue: A moment in time, perfect as you are.

Yes, life is busy. But if you can find time to have that thought, you can find time to just as easily not have that thought and be present where you are.

It’s not a stretch to say that we, as social creatures, are really good at filling our free time. Especially in this uncharted era of post-lockdown jubilation. We have friends to catch up with and trips to take. Family to see and work to return to.

But I want this post to serve as a reminder that there is value in the empty space too.

That our schedules should also prioritize a little time each day that is unencumbered by other people, digitally or otherwise. Put your phone away. Close your laptop. Dog-ear your book and set it aside. Find your spot on the couch or the floor or the grass and listen to the sounds of the earth in full bloom. Feel the sun on your skin, or the breeze against your cheek. And just breathe.

How lucky we are to be able to do such a profoundly unremarkable thing today.

Reconnect with your place in the present. Here are some ways to practice mindfulness and grounding in your daily life:

  1. Get rooted: You can do this while you’re washing dishes or waiting in line somewhere. (Obviously if you’re waiting in line, you won’t be doing this barefoot, but the other actions remain the same!) Take off your shoes and stand with your bare feet on the ground. Wiggle your toes and fan them out, setting them back down to create a good grip on the floor. Feel strong through your feet as you stand up tall, engaging your core and drawing in the muscles of your abdomen slightly. Reach the crown of your head toward the sky. Relax your shoulders down and let your arms be at your sides. Breathe into your belly and chest. Feel strong and solid right where you are.

  1. Get still: Find a quiet spot in your house, whether it’s a whole room or a corner of one. Seated on a cushion, or in a chair, rest your hands on your knees and close your eyes. If you choose to keep them open, lower your gaze about 3 feet in front of you, and relax your eyes. Breathe in and out naturally, counting each inhale and exhale (one, one, two, two, three, three) until you reach ten. Then begin at one again. Let thoughts and sensations come and go. Observe how they make you feel, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Don’t ruminate or linger on anything in particular. Experience the sounds, smells, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. Do this as long as you like.

  2. Get real: Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to pause and reconnect with the world around you. We can often get so caught up in our inner world and dialogue that we forget where we are in the present moment. Using this technique can help you step back and get perspective, quieting the internal chatter and allowing you to be where you are at this time. Do it by naming:

Five things you can see

Four things you can feel

Three things you can hear

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

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