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Stillness is the Move

by Lucia Monge
July 23, 2014

Lucia Monge RISD-MFA '15 is a Social Innovation Fellow who created Planton Movil in her home city of Lima, Peru. This summer she is working on a curriculum to inspire environmental stewardship in young people.

I am spending a great amount of time this summer sitting in front of my computer reading about ventures around the world that work alongside people to create green spaces. Projects that address urban planning and infrastructure development, fostering environmental stewardship in children, and designing art projects that stimulate participation.

The impactful ways in which people are changing the way we own the public realm are informing the process of designing my own vision: a methodology for creating public green areas where individuals can reconnect with nature and communities can strengthen nourishing relationships using art and education as catalysts for this transformation.

As much as I consider reading and learning a travelling opportunity in itself, I must confess I like to move - and not only through ideas in my head. No matter how motivated I am on my research topic, there is a point in the day where I have ran out of ways of sitting on my chair and have to escape its four legs and get up on my own two.

One of the goals of my venture is trying to inspire connectivity between people and the green areas they create. Connect with the plants and trees that will cohabit with them. However, in order to make it fair, before I ask others to connect I believe I have to tap into that connectivity myself. So how do I personally connect with a tree’s experience?

To answer that question I have decided to go out to the woods to meet some trees, walk around them, observe their moves, breathe their air, hear their sounds, try to better understand and relate. This is fundamental to my research and honestly, very convenient for my cravings to be outdoors, although… trees aren’t really moving around the forest.

This is how I realized that my first activity in the woods should be just standing with the trees and staying still (super still) as if I were one of those gentle giants. I count how long I endure immobility and this helps me to stay present on my task and also realize my gradual improvement on focus. Turns out (although at this point you might imagine so) I am pretty bad at staying still.

My first count went up to 40.

Today everything moves quickly and speed seems to automatically add bonus points to many tasks we face in our daily lives. I never imagined though, how hard (and important) staying still would be. I do not mean sitting on a desk or melting on a couch, the stillness I am referring to is a form of awareness.

When I manage to stand still, I realize that I am still moving. Planting myself like a tree allows me to witness all the movement that already inhabits me, so vital but also involuntary. My senses feel heightened, the soundscape becomes rich in texture and the distances I can perceive expand as the count increases. Breathing feels as an immense expansion that contrasts with my restless eyeballs.

I started going to the forest looking for action and found out that actually, stillness is the move. To me, standing still is a way of authoring the subsequent move as a conscious one, so that standing transforms into a vital and voluntary stance.

I encourage you to try it.