THE PACIFIC OCEAN IN ME.

Author:Meis, Cecilia
 
FREE EXCERPT

SETTLING DOWN IN PARADISE, OUR WRITER WANTED TRANQUILITY. THEN CAME THE WAVES.

It sort of does look like a mental health facility, I think to myself.

Our ninth-floor condo in Honolulu once appeared sunny and welcoming to me. It was my boyfriend Michael's biggest complaint, one that I laughed off as pickiness. Now the walls seem to mutate in front of me. Soft yellow with a thick mustard trim turned to a mixture of bile and undercooked scrambled eggs.

I sit in silence, phone in hand, laptop on lap, staring almost in disbelief. It is like I am seeing the walls for the first time.

Minutes pass-10,15, more? Michael, probably noticing the absence of my fingers punching at the keys, asks if I am OK. I'm a loud typist. My brother once told me that it gives him anxiety to hear me clacking away, as if I'm angry at the words on the screen. "I can type 85 words per minute," I told him, my chin raised in defiance.

"Stefani died," I say to Michael, still staring blankly at the wall.

Through the open sliding doors, the street below buzzes with traffic, but I only hear the deafening sound of silence between my ears. I can't remember the last time I felt so void of movement, naked of hurried thoughts and feelings. The stark stillness of my entire being comes as a surprising but welcome gift, a reminder of just how frantic my life had become.

When was the last time I had thought about wall colors? When was the last time I had done nothing at all?

I am snapped out of my trance and into the reality of life after this loss. But I am still stuck thinking about that feeling of quiet, of slow-of being perfectly placid.

When was the last time I had thought about wall colors? When was the last time I had done nothing at all?

I am snapped out of my trance and into the reality of life after this loss. But I am still stuck thinking about that feeling of quiet, of slow--of being perfectly placid.

I identify with the sensation instantly when I read about it in the most recent book by Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is the Key. Holiday is a best-seller and ancient philosophy expert who says that feeling is something we're born with, and subsequently lose connection to as we allow life and business and busyness to overcome it. Stillness, as he calls it, is "to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude--exterior and interior--on command."

This quiet, then, is the ability to harness our mental, spiritual and physical state, even temporarily. If we could step back and see our lives from a bigger perspective, what would we deem worthy of our time? If we could be steady and calm when the world at large is in chaos, what could disarm us? If we could focus our full attention on that which matters most, what could we accomplish?

It sounds beautiful and wholly unattainable.

Purposeful and consistent solitude, Holiday writes, allows us the space and time to detach from the deluge of thoughts and feelings, to see our world from a bird's eye view and make healthier decisions. That's why death makes us stop and consider what truly matters.

"The world is like muddy water," he writes. "To see through it, we have to...

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