From time to time, Jason’s Connection likes to invites guests to give their own unique points of view. Stacy Sims is founder of the True Body Project and City Silence, and a novelist and playwright. This is her story.–Ed.
In the late ‘90s, I took an important first step. I admitted a powerlessness over alcohol. I confessed that my life had become unmanageable. What unmanageable looked like for me was that I woke up and took anti-anxiety medication so that I would not have a panic attack as I drove my son to school or as I stood in the grocery store aisle, my heart and thoughts racing: “I am dying, I am crazy, I am dying, I am crazy.”
Having managed a car ride or a store visit, I would finish a full pot of coffee. A half pack of cigarettes later, I ate. I might take another anxiety pill to get through the afternoon or to shut my mind down to nap. A few hours later, I drank. I looked forward to the times when I was completely alone, so I didn’t have to put on the charade of social drinking. There were a lot of black outs. There was a lot of missing time. That is a silence one should never experience. It is where you learn the difference between void and stillness. I learned it first when I was diagnosed with epilepsy in the 3rd grade.
I didn’t know then that the church basement I walked into was its own mindfulness center. I didn’t know then that the process of perceiving the constant hum of my fast-moving thoughts and my accelerated pulse was its own meditation. I didn’t know then that my rediscovery of the alignment of my body and breath through Pilates was exactly the energy medicine I needed. I didn’t know then that my nightly gratitude inventory was its own Yoga Nidra.
I became a devoted student of mind and body. When you come to understand that you cannot trust your own thoughts to be in your best interest, you become fascinated by how they are cultivated in the first place. My work taught me that we are multi-sensory beings trying to make sense of the embodied, habituated noise of the past while navigating an increasingly complex world in the present.
Straight up meditation, where you sit for extended lengths and appreciate breath, gratitude, sensation, came late to me. Three years ago, I was gifted the chance to study Reiki with Sundar Kadayam. A small group of us met every two weeks for a year. Our homework for the first few months was simple. We were asked to meditate at least five minutes a day.
Five minutes a day.
That was the perfect prescription for me. Since then, I have deepened the practice and fortified the work of the True Body Project to bring more silence to those who need it.
In the last few months alone, my colleagues and I have created a space for silence with 4th-12th grade girls, with children from around the world who have had their education interrupted due to their refugee status, survivors of sex trafficking, veterans, yogis, teens and friends. I have been gifted hours of meditation by other teachers along the way.
Life is better this way.
So that’s where City Silence was born. Why not commit to my own practice and invite others to join me? Why not just do it, one hour at a time, one park at a time, one city at a time? Why not celebrate 10 years of the True Body Project this way? I figured there was no possible downside to taking time to be in silent community. So then Diane Durban made me a logo. Washington Park said “Sure!” and many of my friends in Cincinnati and in other cities said, “Heck yes, we want to do this!”
Over the next many months, we will offer “proof” of why mindfulness and meditation are vitally important to fulfilling, productive, healthy lives. We will share studies, statistics and personal stories.
More important, we’re going to show up. We’re going to meet you–each and every one of you–in silent practice together. We might sit spine to spine. We may sit with each other at the same time, but in different cities. We are gonna slow the world down and notice what we smell, hear, taste, feel. We’re going to notice our thoughts – the genius ones right along with the harebrained ones. We’re going to turn off our digital devices and turn on our capacity for stillness, wonder, creativity and compassion.
We are going to connect to each other in the space of silence, where we are all the same, where we are all just humans who want to feel better and do good in the world.