Stillness has been explored since Biblical times and is as elusive as any other relic. We are a generation of do-ers, even as the world teeters on the edge of complete collapse, we find ways to do. Work(out) from home! Take online classes! Listen to podcasts! Stay creative! Our mind seems like a permanent host to a caffeinated life coach. We face a constant barrage of motivational mottos thrown at us from every corner of the media. A demand for productivity has our generation careening towards the future while anxiously looking over our shoulders at the past. Who knew the most forgotten, or forlorn, would be the present; the here and now?
Let go and be still.
Cherish the moments of silence in between these loud screams of the future and quiet voices of the past. As uncomfortable as it can be, practice the intention of being still. The practice of stillness is unique to each person who needs a moment of clarity and peace. It is the untapped power of an unconscious mind, a quieted psyche that lets thoughts pass through like clouds. Let go of control, even if for a moment.
In Ryan Holiday’s new book, “Stillness is Key,” he describes how to achieve peace of mind. “We will not simply think our way to peace. We can’t pray our soul into better conditions. We’ve got to move and live our way there. It will take our body — our habits, our actions, our rituals, our self-care — to get our mind and our spirit to get our body to the right place.” Stillness is a journey that requires proactive and intentional choices. Choices that reinforce your self-love, your confidence in the power of your mind, and your conviction to better the quality of your life. Let me just remind you, these are things you probably want if you value yourself even a little bit. You wouldn’t even have made it this far into this spiel if you didn’t. The thing is, these grand proclamations seem daunting, don’t they? They’re so incredibly transformative that it almost seems impossible to achieve without radical steps. And there lies the magic of this movement. Simplicity is its core, breadth, and horizon.
According to PsychCentral, these are some of the small steps you can take to begin this journey:
- Breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths induces the parasympathetic system and slows your heart rate
- Practice whenever necessary. Any space can become the nucleus for relaxation and calm, especially places that otherwise stress you out. Practice meditation and breathing deeply in the office, on your commute, at home, go to the bathroom at a party. Let doubts, self-criticism, thoughts of the future, and past drift along without holding you hostage.
- Schedule stillness. If routine works better, let stillness become a part of it. Set aside 15 min a day, every day, around the same time, and stick to it.
- Find a favorite place. Similarly, if you prefer something more rigid, pick your favorite spot in your house or outside, a place devoid of interruptions and other people, and start there.
- Background music. Complete silence can be overwhelming at first. Soft music, recordings of nature (ocean, forests, rain), slow piano, all can help you apprehend the silence and relax
- Repeat calming phrases. “I am calm and still,” or “I can create stillness,” or other affirmations that help you feel centered. Ryan Holiday tries to ease your anxiety by sharing his own affirmation, “There’s no greatness in the future. Or clarity. Or insight. Or happiness. Or peace. There is only this moment.”
- Physically relax. Unclench your hands, uncurl your toes, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, lie down or sit somewhere comfortable, good posture, ease your shoulders, relax your mouth, and just be.
“Wait you’re telling me to just be? But, we have so much to do”, you might say.
Many women describe themselves as overthinkers, and rightfully so. We are master jugglers without a circus to support us or an audience to praise us. This viral TikTok sums up a key difference between men and women. In her book, “Women Who Think Too Much; How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life,” University of Michigan Psychology Professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema shares how 57% of women are prey to this, leading to a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Our aversion to stillness and the need for productivity isn’t just stressful, it’s literally fatal. You can die from wanting to live so chaotically. When you become your own worst enemy, when the doubts and insecurities get in the way of the work you need to do, that is a sign of the lack of stillness in your routine. When you are constantly distracted by the hum of the world around you to the point where you can’t hear yourself, your thoughts, and create space for your creativity to find refuge, you are denying yourself the full capacity of your potential.
There are so many reasons to exercise this skill. Michael Hyatt, a renowned leadership mentor, explains his reasons (and our Power Tips) for wanting to practice stillness:
- Maintain perspective
- “If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.”
- Stay connected to true self
- “I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.”
- More internal margin in life
- “While I have been pursuing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.”
Real Talk: Know that stillness is a journey not a destination. Build a routine, build solitude, build calm, and find gratitude in stillness’ constant companionship.
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