Exploring an underutilized mindfulness discipline
Stillness may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your life. Stillness is defined as a lack of movement or sound. This seems like something you strive for when crawling into bed at the end of a long day. Why strive for this when you have meetings to attend, errands to run, and relationships to manage? You need to move and make noise for these things to go well, right?
But stillness isn’t just sitting alone without moving or speaking. It’s an active state of being that weaves the inner wisdom we all have inside ourselves into our daily lives—including meetings, errands, and relationships.
You’ve probably encountered people who seem to move through life with ease. No matter where they are or what’s happening around them, they radiate a calm confidence, rarely coming off as frazzled. They always seem to pause before they speak or act, unaffected by the emotions and churn of people and events around them. These people are so striking because they practice stillness.
For some, this discipline comes naturally, but for many of us, it’s something we must work for. The good news is that stillness is always accessible, even in moments of stress and anxiety. You must simply make room for it.
And the benefits are vast. Practising stillness calms the nervous system, reduces anxiety, and gives you the tools to better handle stress. You’ll also become a better listener, gain easier access to your intuition, and a better understanding of yourself. Stillness can also unlock creativity, improve sleep, and make it easier to let go of negative thoughts. All of this leads to better mental and physical health.
Here’s how you can explore stillness and make room for it in your life.
Carve out time
Start with an intention to create stillness in your life. Give yourself 10 minutes every day to do nothing. This isn’t a time to plan, read, or silently make a to-do list. Use these minutes to simply exist and cultivate stillness. You can increase the amount of time you set aside for stillness as you build experience with this practice.
Lower the lights, turn off electronics, and find a quiet space. The fewer distractions, the better you’ll be able to concentrate on finding stillness. You may even want to tell those around you that you need a few minutes to yourself to prevent interruptions.
By starting with a strong foundation, you’ll eventually be able to find stillness during crisis.
Tools to help you focus
Sitting quietly can be a nightmare for some. We’ve been conditioned to think the busier you are, the more important you are. This isn’t true. Being productive isn’t a measure of worth, but in our always-on society, it can be incredibly challenging to simply be.
If you need help staying on track during your 10 minutes of daily stillness, there are several things you can do. Consider a calming scene like a mountaintop or waves lapping against the beach.
Keep a journal
It’s normal for thoughts to pop up when you sit down to concentrate on stillness. Make note of them in a journal then move on, letting them float away like little clouds. After a week or so, review your entries for any patterns.
It’s also a good idea to reflect for a moment after each time you cultivate stillness. Journal about how you feel, both before and after, as well as any insights that pop up.
Sound and smell can be powerful relaxation tools and are great supplements to your search for stillness. Pick a calming song with no lyrics, maybe a soundtrack or classical piece, and play it when you sit down for your daily ten minutes of stillness. Does it help you focus? Does it enhance your calm?
You can also enhance your experience by lighting a scented candle or incense. If you find a smell you like, try using it each time you sit in stillness to help your concentration.
Get creative with how you hold your body. Do you like to lie down? Try sitting on the floor with your legs crossed or propped up in bed with pillows. The idea is to find the best ways to access your stillness.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve all been taught a lot of toxic things about life including your worth is measured by your productivity, that every moment of your life should be filled to the brim with activities, and that it’s a competition to see who can be the busiest and most stressed. Carving out time to simply exist threatens these narratives. Be gentle with yourself as you distance yourself from what you’ve been taught in favor of putting yourself first. Journal about any struggles you have and understand that for many, stillness comes with practice. It’s alright if you don’t take to it immediately.
With these things in mind, make it a goal this month to explore stillness and integrate this important discipline into your life.