Elsa and I have been blogging a lot about travel and all of the things you learn by exploring the world and exploring yourself while out in the world. [See 5 Things I Understood While Walking 500 Miles or Thoughts on Travel – The People and The Lightness] So I found it funny and refreshing to hear this TED talk by Pico Iyer, a travel blogger, about the value in sitting still. He states that in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent then the act of going nowhere. I thought it to add the perfect balance to our discussion.
Iyer agrees with the value and beauty of travel, but he explains that only through sitting still we can sift through the slideshow of experience. This balance of movement and stillness is a loop that leads to learning. He tell the story of how a trip to North Korea of a only few days gave him sights, but only through sitting still for years after could he turn those into insights. He also sees the value of stillness for improving travel- suggesting that “nowhere is magical, unless you can bring the right eyes to it.” Through stillness, we can develop more attentive and appreciative eyes.
For Iyer, going nowhere means taking a few minutes a day, a day a few, or a few months a year (whichever works best for you) to sit still to find out what moves you, to recall where your happiness lies. It also entails taking retreats from life, turning off our technology, and getting to places of real quiet.
He urges his audience to make more conscious efforts to sit still. I blogged a month or so ago about mindfulness meditation, which is one great technique for approaching some stillness. But rather than focusing on the “now” of experience, Iyer believes in the importance of stillness for reflection on the past and for cultivating a future.
I wholeheartedly agree with this message. I worry that in this world of technology and interconnectedness, I spend my free moments checking email or playing Candy Crush rather than reflecting and being still. Especially in New York City, it is so easy to get swept up in the constant motion and movement – to feel that busyness is a sign of success. Yet our bodies and minds really crave those moments of doing nothing, and in fact need those moments to process, reflect, and to learn.
You can view this inspirational talk below. Let me know what you think!