Stillness is powerful. Once stillness becomes part of your life, you can expect greater clarity and self-awareness as well as an increase in energy levels, intuition, and creativity.
One would think that in such a hectic world there is no time for stillness, and yet it is precisely because of this that we need to pause and block distractions from time to time.
If you live on autopilot, then you don’t really live. Stillness is what interrupts the script and allows you to reconnect with the real You.
What is stillness?
Sit comfortably and don’t move your body. Maintain good posture but relax your muscles and let go of any tension.
If you resist the urge to move for a few seconds, then it’s relatively easy. Any of us can practice stillness physically. Can you do the same with your mind, though?
If you imagine your thoughts and emotions as waves of energy moving in different directions, then essentially they are movement.
The word emotion itself suggests that any intense changes in mood (positive or negative) originate from motion. Emotion is motion and vice versa.
Stillness of the mind, then, happens when all thoughts, distractions, worries, and anxieties are reduced to a minimum if not eliminated altogether.
The analogy is that of a musical instrument e.g. strings or percussion that generates sound when it vibrates.
Your mind is a bit like a musical instrument that emits sound 24/7. Even during deep sleep — whether we have dreams or not, the subconscious mind is at work.
Through stillness, you can reach a state where your mind is silent, i.e. does not move, and in which all the distractions of the mind are replaced by pure awareness.
How to practice stillness
Ideally, the practice of stillness should be part of your daily routine, as a habit, until it becomes part of who you are.
The benefits of conscious stillness are invaluable — we’ll go into that in a minute — but it’s not so easy at first simply because your mind is used to “moving” in all directions.
Although stillness can occur at any time, spontaneously, the following practices can help you cultivate it more consciously.
- Silence. Find a quiet place (or listen to white noise), sit still, and close your eyes. You have no idea how much sound and noise is in our lives until you experience total silence for a few minutes.
- Presence. Interrupt whatever it is that you are doing and pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on what you hear, see, and touch. Then, focus on your body. This is what presence feels like, and it does wonders for stress and anxiety.
- Massage. Besides the health benefits, massage trains you to pay attention to your body and as you do so for a while, your mind switches off, which means it becomes still.
- Contemplation. This could be anything from mindfulness meditation, to watching a sunset or the stars, to immersing yourself in a work of art and its beauty. Those who are contemplative are still.
- Slowing down. In a hectic world, we are conditioned to doing things as fast as possible. True, time is precious. But being efficient does not mean being compulsive. Slow down, be still.
- Minimalism. Essentially, having less and doing less. How many distractions are you bombarded with every single day, and how much tension and anxiety does that lead to? Aren’t all those phone notifications a huge distraction?
- Solitude. Whether it means setting aside some me-time or going hermit mode for two weeks. Not all personality types are inclined to solitude, but those who are can use it to their advantage and to find stillness.
Inner and outer stillness
Forest bathing and spending time in nature in general can also help you reach a state of stillness.
Outer stillness (the stillness of the plants and trees, the sound of the wind that caresses your skin) can become your own inner stillness.
The next time you go for a walk, pause and sit down. Observe your surroundings. Let the environment pass through you; absorb it. Become the stillness outside you.
After all, the Buddha reached enlightenment under a tree. Perhaps it would not have happened without the stillness and silence of nature.
Stillness in the modern world
We live in a mad, hectic, chaotic world where we barely have time to do anything. How can we find stillness in such a world, then? Should we all become hermits?
The truth is that although the lifestyle of the modern world does come at a price in terms of mental health, there is now an incredible number of resources available to you.
By resources I mean websites like this one, books, videos, classes, and so on. You can learn about meditation, mindfulness, and all other practices for self-awareness for free.
Also, you may be busy, but you can always set aside half an hour and practice stillness. You may live in a big city, but you can always go for a walk at the park.
There is no need to travel to a Buddhist temple or quit your job or anything like that. Stillness can become part of your day regardless.
Benefits of stillness
First and foremost, all meditative and contemplative practices will give you the gift of freedom. Not freedom itself, but rather the ability to come to it, to be aware of it.
Each time the mind listens to noise, metaphorically, it fails to listen to the heart. Stillness allows you to pause and realize that you can be free from the noise and anything that drags you toward goals that aren’t yours.
2. Inner peace
We all suffer from anxiety in one way or another. Those with severe anxiety or panic disorders are simply the extreme version of what we may experience several times a day.
There is no magic potion or pills to get rid of anxiety, but stillness and mindfulness are pretty close to that. The mind cannot cope with stress when full: stillness reduces its workload and allows peace.
Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.Stephen Covey
Why do you do what you do? Why do you think what you think? Most people have no idea as they identify with their thoughts and actions, as well as their environment. Stillness brings the awareness of who you really are.
4. More energy
Everything follows a cycle where work and rest alternate. For example, your sleep cycle, or a period of rest after exercise. And if you look at the natural world, you will see the same pattern (think of summer and winter).
Being able to rest and recharge is essential to recharge and then perform at your best — not just physically but mentally as well. Stillness gives you the chance to recharge fully (and not feel guilty about it).
Ever wondered why solutions to seemingly insurmountable issues come to us at night, right before we doze off? That’s the power of intuition.
Silence and stillness help you go back to a state in which intuition is no longer silenced by the rational mind. Once the mind’s chatter goes away, it is the heart that speaks.
It’s easy to copy or model what other people have created already. It’s much more difficult to find original solutions to complex problems.
Again, intuition plays a key role in this. You cannot create something completely original if you look at what’s around you. It comes from within, from emptiness. That emptiness contains infinite information; all you need to do is connect to it.
Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What if the secret to happiness was removing all worries, distractions, and noise? Though stillness alone won’t make you happy, it is a powerful tool in the path to self realization and the joy that comes with it.