Over the years I’ve often heard from others that I have a great deal of stamina and work hard. I know this about myself and generally consider this a strength. However, there is also a dark side to being driven.
It means that sometimes it’s hard to turn it off and ‘be’ rather than ‘do.’ I know that I’m in good company with this. I’ve learned over the years that for me it’s imperative to practice doing ‘nothing’ or meditating for at least 10-15 minutes a day—in order to collect my thoughts and reign in my energy.
The first chapter in Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet is called “Nothing” and she advises as do many kindergarten teachers, spiritual practitioners, teachers of meditation—to do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.
The truth is that doing what seems like nothing can be profoundly healing and beneficial to the mind, body and soul.
Paradoxically doing nothing can be nothing short of transformational when practiced routinely. It changes the way the brain fires and gives the body a chance to rest, heal and rejuvenate.
What Is Stillness?
Turns out that doing nothing can be the most productive part of the day. Being still and quieting the mind is not something that comes readily to most of us. It requires practice.
This is particularly challenging in our techno crazed lives. Often even one of the simple pleasures of meeting a friend for coffee with a friend involves iPhones placed squarely on the table just in case something or someone more important needs attention.
We find our truth, our creativity, our deepest thoughts and emotions, our souls—in moments of silence.
Why Stillness Matters?
- To gain perspective and respond thoughtfully rather than reactively
- To think with greater clarity and focus rather than coming from a place of overwhelm
- To stay true to oneself rather that paying attention to the voices connected to others wishes and needs for us
- To see the big picture rather than staying focused on the small stuff that in the end really doesn’t matter
- To come from a kinder and gentler place within that helps strengthen our sense of self and relationships with others.
Setting Up to Be Still
It helps to keep a beginner’s mind even if you’ve practiced meditation or some form of stillness for years. I notice that I can get revved up, even though I’ve been meditating for years. That’s why it’s a ‘practice.’
- To begin: schedule a time and add it to your daily calendar. If possible it’s usually best to practice being still or meditating immediately upon awakening.
- Go to the bathroom and then immediately afterward sit on a cushion, chair or up in bed and be still for at least five minutes. That way you get the day off to a good start and you don’t let the day slip away without practicing.
- If possible to practice at the same time in the same place every day. That tends to strengthen associations and habit formation.
- Find a place where you won’t be interrupted. Use a watch or clock to check for time. Best not to use an alarm or ask someone to tell you times up. Eventually a mechanism in your brain will let you know just when five, ten or fifteen minutes are up.
- Choose a time of day to practice stillness and stick with it until you’re ready to build from let’s say five to ten minutes and so on.
- Immediately you’ll begin to feel the benefits and if not, then hang in and know they will come.
- Some days you’ll likely hate doing this and other days you’ll simply crave the quiet and stillness. Either way you’ll get better with time and practice, know that each time you meditate you’ll get different results and feel different sensations. You’ll experience patience and impatience. Joy and sorrow.
- Whatever happens you are learning to strengthen your ability to be still, deep, focused, clear and even more grateful—even when it feels like nothing is happening at all.
How to Meditate or Be Still?
- Relax your body. Sit in a comfortable chair or up in bed. Stay warm.
- Relax your eyes closed.
- Relax your facial muscles and do a quick body scan from head to toes relaxing every body part.
- Get quiet and still.
- If it helps use a sound screen or serene music in the background. Ultimately you won’t need any external devices to get to this place of stillness inside.
- Begin to notice your breath flowing in and out. When you breathe in repeat the word “in” to yourself and when you breathe out repeat the word “out’ to yourself. “In.” “Out.” That’s it—over and over for however long you’ve decided to meditate.
- When thoughts come to mind—notice them and then gently and lovingly bring your attention back to the breath.
- When uncomfortable feelings and thoughts arise rather than suppressing or focusing on them, keep breathing—remain present and let them pass by, like clouds in the sky. Turn back to the present, the stillness, and your breath to help bring a sense of center.
- Most importantly keep a nonjudgmental attitude about whatever happens. Stick to your allotted time and the benefits will come.
This is the key to coming into the present moment rather than revisiting the past or living in the future. It’s about learning to “be here now”—as Ram Dass would say.
There is nothing more precious than learning to return to the present, to the ”now” because that’s really the only sure thing that we can count on.
The rest is fantasy and illusion. The present is where you’ll discover solace and peace.
You’ll find out so much about your self in this practice. Most importantly you’ll learn how to return to this place within that has always been there since the beginning. It’s home.
It’s easy to be distracted by other activities that seem more pressing or compelling on any given day. But remember that this is not only your gift to yourself and everyone else in your life.
It’s also the place where you gain strength, clarity and inner peace. It’s the center of your universe that connects you to everything and everyone.
Recent research shows that is takes approximately two months to change, break or make a habit. Practice the meditation for sixty days and notice what happens.
Keep in mind that if you miss a day or two—it’s okay. Be kind to yourself. Just hop right back on and start practicing again. It’s like brushing your teeth…it’s for life or for as long as you’d like to keep your teeth 🙂
I’d LOVE to hear from you after any amount of practice. Bring on your comments and questions.