Not seeking calm

There are times when being calm is good – most especially when trying to go to sleep! Otherwise, I find it a state of questionable value. It has some value around meditation, but it’s not a very meaningful state to be in.

I find I am generally at my most calm when I’m depressed. It’s a state of disinterest, and unfeeling response to the living world around me. It’s not a state of wanting to move towards anything, nor one of wanting to let anything in. I see a lot of content online preaching about the desirability of calm, and I find I disagree.

There are states of being that I want to cultivate in myself. These are ways of being in the world that enrich my life and that open me to good things. Existing in a state of gentle curiosity is good. That opens me to experiences, to the alternative perspectives of other people and to investing care and attention in whatever is around me. 

I find it helps to cultivate a state of openness-to-joy. That’s not a toxic positivity that denies a whole array of feelings and experiences. It’s about being open to the small joys and beauties that can be overlooked if I’m not careful. Actively seeking that kind of joy definitely helps.

I’m also trying to cultivate compassion and tenderness. This will make me open to pain and distress whenever I encounter suffering. I do not want to ignore the distress and suffering of other beings, and I want to meet that with the best I can bring. A tender state means I will experience pain, but I can respond to it in useful ways.

I think part of the problem here is that we’re being offered a binary – stress or calm. The idea that being calm is the right response to everything only makes sense when that state is set up in opposition to stress. Calm isn’t the only state you can start from. A gentle, open, engaged response to the world can be full of feeling, it can bubble with the potential for excitement, and delight, and at the same time be open to facing the difficult things.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Not seeking calm

  • bish

    Everyone feels things differently, uniquely and personally. I feel you are describing calm in your second paragraph by conflating it with apathy and overlooking contentment, peace and satisfaction. Your are right, there is no binary in feelings; only washes, and tides and swells. Perhaps that is why the emotions lie in the watery west in many traditions. May you always be open to joy, and bubble with excitement at the most inappropriate of times. 😉

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you. I suspect there must be people for whom calm works in a totally different way, but I have no grasp of what that would be like. Mostly it doesn’t seem to work for me as something to try and cultivate, I don’t like how it feels or where it takes me. 🙂

  • OrderInTheQuartz

    Fascinating! Calm to me is quietly energizing, more like that “gentle curiosity”
    you described (great phrase!). Everyone is wired differently, though, and on reflection, it does feel like “calm” has been put up on a pedestal and made into some sort of gold-standard obligation emotion. Very binary. I really love what you wrote here.

  • M.A.

    If I don’t maintain a certain level of calmness I get over-stimulated; my brain tries to focus on 10 things at once, I get really frustrated, and then I get depressed. This “being human” thing is really complicated…

  • Laura Morrigan

    I feel like I am often either down or hyperfixated on something exciting. I am working on calm moments like reading with a chai.

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