By: Shayna Zema
The caress of the sun
touching my shoulder
stroking my wrist
the wind blows over my face
a gentle breeze
as I become sun-kissed
I’m usually running
from place to place
at a steady pace
a gentle breeze
continuous motion against my knees
But today I found movement in stillness
Soaking up the energy
rather than expelling it all
corriendo por el urban sprawl
Movement became passive
And to my amazement, rather massive
as the clouds moved with the wind
the sun shone overhead
and I lay
surrendering to its ever present velocity
I wrote “Movement” when I was living in Puerto Rico. My trip was coming to a close, and I had planned an entire road trip around the small island during my last week in the country. Only problems: my driver’s license had expired, and I had no car. I was relying on my friend to give me his car (and praying that I wouldn’t get pulled over) or to go with me on the journey. Both proposals failed. I was stuck spending my last several days doing what I had done for the past five months: lying on the beaches of San Juan and swimming in the ocean (yes, tough life). My last day on the island, I lay out on the beach with a cold drink in hand and laughed with my two best friends whom I had met the first day I landed. I quickly realized that I had found movement in stillness.
Let me explain. Movement for me usually requires travel. Activity. Excitement. Adventure. Laughter. Smiles. Happiness. Stillness for me refers to the humdrum. Everyday. Routine. Yet despite always viewing the two terms as oppositional, they can, in fact, be brought together in a collaborative experience.
One of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer, writes about the art of stillness in his book by the same name. He explains, “To me, the point of sitting still is that it helps you see through the very idea of pushing forward; indeed, it strips you of yourself, as of a coat of armor, by leading you into a place where you’re defined by something larger.… The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape.”
Often when greeted with a “How are you?” as people loaded with work, classes, meetings, and jobs, we reply with one, singular word: BUSY. But nobody seems to question this response; it has been adopted as the way things are and ought to be. Even when relaxing or catching up with friends, we put everything in our calendars and carefully plan our every hour, day, month, and life. We have screens on our walls and screens on our desks. Screens in our laps and screens in our pockets. A recent TIME magazine poll surveyed 5,000 people and found that 84% of participants couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device, with 25% admitting that they checked their phones every 30 minutes. That’s dozens of times a day!
With so much digital stimuli, we all could use a good digital detox. A new trend that has been emerging, which draws on the Jewish Sabbath, is called a “tech Sabbath.” This entails observing a day—24 hours—each week in which computers, TVs, and cellphones are shut down and time is spent doing the things we all did for fun as kids before the Internet emerged, like reading books, walking outside, and spending time with friends—in person.
This seems hard: what about all that work piling up? All those emails slowly cluttering the inbox? The missed phone calls that haunt you over the weekend? I’ll tell you a secret: only five years ago, I used to be just like you. Despite studying for the entirety of my education before college in orthodox Jewish school, my family and I never observed any of the customs nor the Sabbath every week from Friday at dusk ‘til nightfall on Saturday. When I graduated high school, I traveled to Latin America to conduct service work. Many incidents happened during that year to inspire me religiously, and I began keeping the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. I have this beautiful, slow day every week, and I interact with my family and my own mind differently. While observing a tech Sabbath might seem easy in the midst of rural Ecuador, it can be just as easy in the hustle and bustle of life in Providence. No matter how much work I have, keeping a tech Sabbath provides a well-deserved break and un-tethers me from my computer. By sundown on Saturday, I’m completely refreshed, and I can’t wait to get back online and put my refreshed energy to good use. I power down to power up, and I’m certain we can all do the same together. Whether you want to try to adopt a full-day tech Sabbath, observe the complete Jewish Sabbath, or maybe just take 10 minutes a day or week to meditate silently without updating your status, let’s stop working and leave our screens blank. Unplug to re-plug and find your essence through movement in stillness.