Wednesday, 23 May 2012

What stillness means to us.

On reading Time, Space and Stillness a very good (and supportive) friend of mine remarked "I just don't know how you're going to get the stillness bit!", so I thought it might be nice to write a little bit about what stillness means in our family life.

Certainly there is not a great deal of sitting still in our home, although any opportunities for this are quickly taken! Stillness for me personally is about feeling calm and peaceful rather than anxious and stressed. The stillness is about what's going on inside, regardless of what is happening in the outside world. Adopting this state was a matter of choice for me. I remember very clearly in the weeks after Callum and Charlie were born feeling almost overwhelmed by the demands of a 2 year-old and newborn twins and telling myself:

"These are your children and this time is precious, don't waste any of it feeling stressed".

I remembered all the women who had approached me in the street, looked at my children and told me that this is the "happiest time of your life". I knew they were right and made a vow to make the most of every aspect of parenting, even the ridiculously difficult bits! This will sound over-simplistic to many people but it has really worked for me. Please don't think I am some vision of saintly calm though, I get frustrated, cross, stressed and irritated plenty of times along the way! I've learned that this doesn't help at all though, and that if I can feel calm then the whole house calms with me! Finding my own stillness makes life easier to manage.

As far as the children go, stillness comes in moments. We get outside and watch nature at work as much as we can, and very often the boys will just stop and be still as something fascinates them. Even young babies love to watch things like sunlight through leaves in the trees. I would always try and stop and be still with my boys when I noticed them doing this...I feel as though I've rediscovered the world through their eyes. I point out the things I find beautiful in the world and Joseph now does this back for me, often when I most need reminding!

Silence can work wonders! It's a great source of amusement in this house that Oliver enjoys filling our home with noise, switching everything on and constantly singing, while I love silence! Obviously there is always the noise of three small boys at home, but this is a lovely noise most of the time! I often use silence to diffuse difficult situations, for example if the boys are starting to argue or get ratty I'll just say "Shhh boys listen!" and they all stop in their tracks and listen. The crazy thing is, they always find something to listen to! This silence breaks the momentum of the moment and often prevents situations from escalating, not always but a lot of the time.

We try to encourage a home where anger and frustration pass quickly and we don't dwell on one another's outbursts. I'll often tell the boys to gather up their anger or frustration when they are in the middle of a paddy and throw it out of the window! They usually find this idea so amusing that the paddy is over, again not always but often. This isn't to negate their feelings, it's simply to accept that young children often have impulsive outbursts that they usually don't understand or remember the root of themselves, so dwelling on these outbursts usually seems pointless to us. Because leading by example is important here, Oliver and I need to allow our own anger and frustration to pass too...forgiving the children their outbursts is often a great deal easier than forgiving each other, but we're a work in progress!

So there you have it, stillness here is not about sitting still or living in a perfectly tranquil home, it's about a feeling of calm that maintains itself even when utter chaos is breaking out in your living room, taking time to notice the beauty all around us, and encouraging one another to pass through anger and frustration peacefully. We live in a lively, bustling home so this isn't always easy, but when we manage it life is great!


  1. Brilliant. An inner stillness is infectious. Calm observation of the space of awareness in which thoughts and emotions and remaining rooted in that space diminshes tension in situations. Even when it feels as though it is anything but still within, there is the space that allows the non-stillness otherwise we would not recognise the non stillness. Encouraging the relentless curiosity in children and learning from that ourselves makes for moments where we just stop and observe our natural world without categorising, interpretation or judgement, which you do a great job of Lou. It is through the pure act of perception without the necessity to label that we recognise stillness is already present. It doesnt mean we do not get stressed, or frustrated but I guess we recognise there is larger, undefinable space that contains it. Good work Lou!

  2. Lou...your like super-nanny!! Think I need to bring Noah to you, he has such an angry streak in him but then he doesn't whinge.....just shouts, so I suppose I cant have it all ;-) It just seems to be part of his personality, I just need to work out a way to help him deal with it! Just for interest, I have these "rules" on my fridge....

    -Dont spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not have all I ask for, I'm only testing you.
    -Don't be afraid to be firm with me, I prefer it, It makes me feel more secure.
    -Don't let me form bad habits,I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.
    -Don't make me feel small, it only makes me behave stupidly big!
    -Don't correct me in front of people if you can help it.
    -Don't make me feel that my mistakes are sins, it upsets my set of values.
    -Don't be upset when I say 'I hate you,' it's not you I hate but your power to hinder.
    -Don't protect me from consequences, I need to learn the painful way sometimes.
    -Don't nag, if you do, I will need to protect myself by appearing deaf.
    -Don't make rash promises, remember I feel badly let down when promises are broken.
    -Don't tax my honesty too much, I am easily frightened into telling lies.
    -Don't be inconsistent, that completely confuses me and makes me lose faith in you.
    -Don't tell me my fears are silly,they are terribly real to me and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand.
    -Dont ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible. It gives me great shock when I discover that you are neither.
    -Don't forget that I can't thrive without lots of love and understanding, but I don't need to tell you that, do I?

    (memo from your child) xx

    1. Thanks for that Jess, it's great to have reminders for yourself around the house I think. I have a frame in the kitchen with three photos, one of each boy and Time, Space and Stillness written underneath as a constant reminder to me of what I want to give them! Joseph has a temper, it's difficult to manage at times (for him and me) but I try and accept that it's part of who he is at the moment. Children change so much all the time, so many times I started to worry about something only to realise that that thing was now sorted and there was something else to worry about! I reckon it's best not to worry too much and just enjoy them! Distraction has always worked a treat with Joseph, he's just too interested in the world to carry on having a paddy if he thinks he may miss out on something! I tell myself that if I can accept my children as they are, they can live peacefully with themselves and if they can manage that, they'll go about the world in a more peaceful way...I hope :) xx

  3. very true, I try to turn it into a positive, telling myself that because he has such a strong character ( and strong will!) he will be able to stand up for what he believes in the future, be determined to follow his dreams and be able to go against the 'crowd.' So interesting to see how their little personalities develop. Noah's tantrums never last longer than a few seconds, especially if I let him do what he needs to do and carry on singing obliviously around him, I think that this is distraction enough and he remembers he would rather be happy with mummy than shouting on the floor by himself! Thanks for the blogs. Look forward to reading more, they are giving me advice and insight.....and its nice to hear about how other children behave too xxx