The Art of Stillness
Rarely do we sit still, especially in the western world. Yet, this was abruptly changed when the world-wide pandemic began in 2019 giving most everyone an involuntary dose of stillness. We may have moved about our homes, but by and large we had to settle in, settle down and come to terms with a stand-still from our “normal” life.
For years, I’ve heard incessant complaints that “there is never enough time”, “life moves so fast”, “I wish things would just slow down”, “I’m tired of the rat-race”. And so, in a way, we received what we asked; a quieter time, a space to do nothing, an opportunity to do some projects we never had time for, enjoying a hobby or putting a puzzle together, a chance for self-care with less commuting, and maybe more quality experiences with our loved ones like conversations or dinners with the kids since they were home.
What is Stillness?
Stillness is the quality or state of being calm or inactive, however, there is much more to it. Maybe you had a slice of stillness while you were stuck at home. Maybe stillness was drastically uncomfortable. Maybe it took some easing into. Maybe you discovered that while your body was idle, your mind was still racing. The power of stillness can serve all aspects of ourselves, mind, body and emotions. When we arrive at being still we can enter into a world of inner peace and equanimity, and this doesn’t mean your external world needs to alter. Silence is nice but it’s not necessary to enjoy the benefits of stillness.
What are the Benefits of Being Still?
Makeda Pennycooke outlines the top twelve benefits on her website. She states that practicing stillness can ease stress, allows you to be fully present and can heighten your ability to listen more attentively.
Author, Ryan Holiday analyzes how stillness can save us from the chaotic, hectic world by developing inner peace through stillness. His book, Stillness is the Key emphasizes that this takes practice, patience and dedication to reap the benefits. He further goes on to highlight benefits of developing a strong moral compass, to reflect and contemplate, and cultivate deeper relationships.
For me, the power of stillness affords me solitude to be self-aware and listen to my intuition. From this I gain perspective and clarity. Sometimes I even let go and just be – with no expectations or demands put on myself or from others. This is quite freeing.
How to Find Stillness in Our Busy Lives
Stillness exists, so you don’t have to exert energy looking for it. Rather remove as much of the external noise, distractions, notifications, full schedules, busyness and stressors as much, and as often as possible. In our 21st century, this may not come easy. The art of stillness may feel odd because we are conditioned to always be doing instead of being. If we aren’t doing something, we may feel guilty or accused of being “lazy”. We may become bored and restless since we haven’t ever slowed down and rested. We may have a false sense of purpose, importance and feeling accomplished by going, going, going. However, I can tell you as a compulsive “doer” and always going like a hamster on a wheel, switching off can be a skill you will appreciate.
I started with my calendar and blocked off one Sunday of the month – just to experiment and see how it felt. I did not schedule anything! Even if there was something fun happening or an event I wanted to attend, I honored my decision and commitment to the experiment. I wanted to learn how to be still. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed having a day “off”, to do as I pleased, at any given moment, by myself, so much that I added a second Sunday to the month, and then at least half a day to the other weekend days. I have come to savor these Sundays of Stillness. There are moments I putz around the house, read a book, take a nap, or sit in silence. I now realize the power of stillness in that I’m more productive throughout my week because of it.
Another way to start is with your own breathing. Close your eyes and let your deep breaths relax your body. Notice the stillness within your own body, and perhaps the mind can relax too. I find that when I bridge stillness with silence I notice how relax and peaceful I become. Years ago, my car radio went out. This was before bluetooth stereo systems or cell phones, which avert us from silence as well. For days, I went “nuts”. It was so automatic to have the music blaring, that the silence was almost unbearable. To turn this around, I chose to observe my thoughts instead. WOW – what an eye opener to the busyness, and not always helpful thinking that was occurring. Even though the car’s radio was fix, I purposely would drive in silence. This could be another easy way to find stillness in your busy day. As with any practice, start small and be consistent. Set a timer, turn off the noise and begin with 5 minutes of silence. Maybe you too, will embrace the quietude.
What is Meditation?
Finally, I believe one of the most effective ways to finding stillness is by meditating. As you explore meditation, you can happen upon a myriad of definitions, methods, perspectives and techniques. There is no right or wrong way, as meditation is an individual state of being. The general purpose of meditation is to become mentally aware and seeking an experience of emotional ease and peacefulness.
My first hint of meditation or mental stillness was during a yoga class in 1992. The asana portion of the class settled down my physical nervous system, which gave way to sitting in meditation. The teacher reassured us that there would be thoughts running between our two ears, and to observe these thoughts rather than attempt to rid or judge them. “Just breathe and observe”, he would kindly whisper like a gentle breeze floating by. It may have appeared that everyone was in stillness, but I for one, was squirming. I wondered when this was going to be over! Heck, I did my yoga “exercise”, and had to run errands before traffic got bad and the kids got home. “Hurry up!” keep looping AND then the words “breathe and observe” were finally heard. So I observed my breathing, and then I observed my thoughts, and then I started thinking again, but as soon as I realized I was thinking, I would shift my attention to observing my thoughts and breath. This only lasted a few more minutes, and then the teacher guided us to complete the class. At that moment, I wanted to stay in meditation or whatever that experience was, because it felt so rewarding.
As Sarah McLean, Director of FeastForTheSoul.org says; “We all have thoughts, as it’s the nature of the mind to think. The most important aspect of meditation is your willingness to keep going, to keep on bringing your focus back to the object of your meditation. It’s a training that helps us to pay attention on purpose. And it can change the landscape of your brain”!
How to Meditate
You don’t have to sit at the top of a mountain or spend 40 days in an ashram to learn how to meditate. As described throughout this article, there are many ways to meditate. You can meditate open eyed while watching the ocean waves or sit and observe your breathing pattern. You can use a free app such as InsightTimer which offers everything from a timer to music, along with guided practices from experienced contributors.
Katie Swartz, founder of BeMeditation has created a unique way for you to learn how to meditate through a live, virtual meditation studio. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned meditator, you can experience a wide variety of numerous classes scheduled day and night with meditation teachers from all over the world who will guide you with something new each time.
“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.” – Sakyong Mipham
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” – Deepak Chopra
Coach | Motivational Speaker | Mentor
Barbara Badolati, founder of BeWell Retreats has been a key player in the evolution of wellness since 1986. Her dedication to this field has included creating corporate wellness cultures, opening several yoga studios, providing health and life coaching for individuals, and leading worldwide retreats. The foundation of her work is to empower the individual toward greater health and well-being through lifestyle, mindset, movement and meditation. You can experience all of this and more through her virtual retreats and classes at BeWellRetreats.com
5 EASY STEPS TO AMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Learn 5 simple things you can do to boost your social media presence in your marketing strategy.