In our modern world we are induced to live external lives instead of internal ones. The constant distractions of electronic devices, media, and the news, strive to tell us who we are or how we should be. This ever-changing definition of the external self causes stress, confusion, and anxiety. To cope, we often use stimulating or non-nutritious food and drink and create beliefs based not on what we need but a version of what others want us to be.
In the past, I found myself in times of stress and over-commitment so often that I became so numb and out of touch with what I truly needed or wanted. I ended up in continual distraction mode, even when it came to sleep. It was a way of trying to run away from some truth I didn’t want to face, to run away from myself.
I did this for a couple of years until I discovered that what I really craved was stillness, yet I no longer knew how to be still. I needed to allocate time to return to stillness every day and learn to be comfortable with looking inside of myself without judgment.
Mindfulness and its relationship to stillness
A review of empirical studies by the National Institutes of Health showed that those who learn to practice mindfulness through meditation, silent contemplation, stillness and other methods, reported reduced stress, enhanced memory and focus, decreased emotional reactivity, and improved personal relationships. Mindfulness was also shown to promote empathy and compassion in both the therapists and the participants.
Finding daily opportunities to create stillness
The key to finding stillness is intentionality. In moments when you are at home, the house is quiet, and there is nothing left to do that’s pressing, try not to fill them up and start ‘doing’ again. Instead, try to savour the stillness and take a pause from the momentum of your life and enjoy the time to just be.
Savouring moments of stoppage
When the traffic light turns red or when you are standing in a line you hadn’t anticipated, instead of feeling frustrated that you’re losing time, try to enjoy the opportunity to be still in your mind. Take a deep breath and focus on nothing but simply being aware of yourself standing or sitting.
Physically slowing down
Have you ever found yourself being drawn along with other people rushing in a metro station, or on the street? Unless you are truly late to an appointment, force yourself to walk slower, to be more aware of your surroundings, your body, your movements through space.
Slow your breathing
When we are stressed we can get into dysfunctional breathing that affects our overall health and well-being. By taking slow, deep breaths, you slow your heart rate, which in turn, lowers blood pressure, cortisol levels decline and hormones are released that relax the mind and body.
Book-ending your day
Making time for stillness at the start and the end of the day is a powerful way to re-connect to yourself, set intentions, and find refuge: a shelter from the storms and seasons of life, a quiet haven in the midst of the chaos, and a place to rest out of the race. For me, creating stillness at these times allows me to be aware of what is really going on inside my mind and heart. Once I am in touch with that I feel energised to move forward in my day, or peaceful enough to rest at the end of it.
For me to re-learn stillness, I started with just a couple of minutes each day. Once I was consistent with that I worked up to a practice of 15 minutes, then 30 minutes. Research shows that like anything new, it takes consistency of practice and 6 weeks before it become habitual. The experience of stillness is an individual as the path to get there. When you find what works for you, the daily practice of stillness will bring many rewards. The key is not to overthink it, just start.
See if you can invite more moments of stillness and presence into your days. Give yourself the space and permission to enjoy moments of stillness – lean into them, be nourished by them, let them fill you up, open your heart, and anchor you into the depths of your true being. The being is where the self-love and deep gratitude lives. The being is where the empowerment is. The being is where worth is cultivated. The being is where we hear our intuition.
” Listen, silence isn’t empty, it is full of the answers.” Rumi
Resources: I have found the work of Jon Kabat Zinn to be extremely helpful on my journey to finding stillness.