How often do you see people today sitting still? Even during what would otherwise be empty time, people are doing something. They listen to podcasts as they drive to work. They scroll through Facebook when they are riding the bus. Many people even check their emails while they are using the restroom. Everyone is constantly busy.This state of constant busyness, like overexcited bees, is something that is held up by society as a goal or something of which to be proud. Even though most people are aware that they do not want to live a life that is dominated by being on the go every minute of every day, they still brag about the extraordinary busyness in their lives. The most impressive person in the breakroom is the one who can rattle off the most things they did over the weekend. Rarely do people brag about being able to spend the weekend sitting quietly by a lake watching the wind ruffle the water. Stillness and silence simply are not worth as much in most people’s eyes today.
This is deeply unfortunate. Stillness and silence are exactly what people need more than ever. When everyone is constantly riding the edge of overstimulation from saturated colors on magazine covers, flashing lights, loud music, endless noise, thousands of websites screaming with click bait titles and social media that updates in real time, one would think a few minutes of stillness would be worth more than diamonds. Instead, it is scorned. People have become so biased toward busyness that no one wants to admit that the idea of simply letting go of all the stimulation for a few minutes sounds like heaven on earth.
Stillness is not the same as laziness. Stillness is a conscious choice to put problems and deadlines aside for a set period of time and let the body, mind and soul rest. In this spinning world of constant stimulation, a little stillness and silence is a precious gift to your mind and soul.
Stillness lets your mind slow and calm down.When you are still, you become aware of exactly how overstimulated your mind has become. Your thoughts jump from idea to idea like a startled cat. You no sooner start to follow one train of thought than something else interrupts it. You realize that you cannot focus.
The sudden, acute realization of how your mind is spinning out of control can be unnerving. It is enough for some people to give up on the idea of stillness right then and there. They do not want to be alone with a mind that is flashing between thoughts like a particularly demented strobe light. They want to be distracted so they do not have to try and wrangle those thoughts into some semblance of order. Unfortunately, stillness comes for everyone at night, and unless you can manage to wrestle your mind into submission, it will keep you awake.
Consciously choosing to practice stillness can help you grab your racing, overstimulated mind by the horns. It will take some practice, and you will have to deal with those whirling thoughts at first, but if you are truly still, your racing mind will eventually realize that you have given it permission to rest. Then, you will find even your mind settles into a state of calm that allows you to stop overthinking, worrying and driving yourself up the wall with circular thought processes. You can think through issues, sleep better and be able to practically feel the stress bleeding away from your frantic brain.
Stillness lets you be aware of yourself.
Have you ever paid attention to your own mind? Have you ever tried to follow the pattern of your own thoughts and uncover the connections you unconsciously make between ideas? Why does one thought lead to another? What triggers associations that cause you to jump between topics? Most people never bother to attempt to retrace those leaps or observe their own thoughts. They are too busy being swept away by the currents of their own mind. Stillness lets you examine your own mind and thoughts in order to gain a better understanding of your own consciousness. Stillness also allows you to take a few moments to observe your own body without judgment or condemnation. You can sit quietly and feel the weight of your bones, the unconscious twitches of your muscles that keep you balanced even when you feel you are holding still and the steady rhythm of your heart and lungs. Your body is an amazing machine, and stillness grants you the opportunity to appreciate its workings.
Stillness soothes your body.The human body is not wired for modern life. The breakneck speed of man’s mental and cultural development has outstripped the evolution’s ability to adapt. As such, mankind is essentially living in a modern world with an ancient body. Human beings everywhere are still hardwired to respond as if the world were inhabited by hungry saber tooth tigers and giant wooly mammoths. This means that frantic thoughts, constant work and endless stress come easily to humans. True relaxation and stillness does not. Forcing yourself to be still, however, can cause a physical change in your body. Your body registers that it is in no danger. There is no threat, no tigers to defend against and no mammoths to hunt. This allows your overactive amygdala and adrenal glands to stop telling your body that you are in danger. Your stress hormone levels lower and even out. This, in turn, takes a load off your heart and brain. Your muscles can unknot, and you can finally relax in the truest sense of the word.
Stillness allows your spirit to recharge.When you are still, your spirit is soothed. Your mind slows, your body relaxes and your spirit can recharge from where the modern world has been attempting to devour it piece by piece. You are able to let go of what has been bothering you with greater ease. You can feel your intuition and instincts once again. Your creativity also resurfaces.
True creativity is one of the main casualties of the constant busyness of modern life. Creative solutions are born when the brain has little to do but turn over an old problem and poke at it from different angles. When you are constantly bombarding your brain with new information, it has neither the time nor inclination to return to that unsolved issue. Your creativity slowly gathers dust, and if you are not careful, it will wither away entirely.
Stillness anchors you in the present.When you are still in mind, body and soul, you are living in the present moment. You have no choice. Being present helps you to enjoy life as you live it rather than bemoaning a finished past or racing towards an uncertain future. Living in the present also allows you to keep better control of it. People who live mindfully in the present are less likely to take part in self-sabotaging behaviors such as overeating, impulse spending or binge drinking.
Stillness allows you to appreciate life.
When you are racing from one activity to the next and your mind is constantly flitting between thoughts, you are unlikely to notice what is right in front of you. You are so busy thinking about what you are going to do next or what your friends just did, that you do not notice the little moments that pass you by. When you are still, you can appreciate the little things. You notice the way the sun feels on your skin and the movement of the breeze in your hair. You pay attention to the way the taste of chocolate lingers on your tongue and how good a cool glass of water feels on a dry throat. You are also more likely to notice the intangible things that make life worthwhile when you are not racing around like a cat with its tail on fire. You can stop and bask in the trust of a close friendship or truly savor the joy of spending time with someone you love.
Stillness is too often equated with laziness, but a better comparison is that stillness is a deep cleaning for your mind and soul. Give your spirit a much needed rest. Take a few minutes every day to allow yourself to be silent and still. Let the world come to a halt. Then, once you are ready, go rejoin it with a steady heart so that you can live in the eye of the storm rather than getting swept away in the flashing, brightly colored flood of modern life.