Start acting instead of reacting. Stop letting external stimuli control your life. Stop letting events over which you have no control dictate your state of mind. All you have to do is take a quick step back, and peace will follow.
Do you ever sit still? Not while watching television or sitting in traffic, or working at your desk – because even then, you’re not really still. You might fidget, and your mind is active and not ‘present’ – you are focusing on external stimuli.
Try real stillness. Sitting, standing, whatever – just stop. Be aware. Bring your entire mind to attention, and simply experience what is happening around you. In a sense, this is what happens during meditation, although the meditating mind is still focused, albeit on tranquility rather than a stimulus. Stillness is one of the many reasons people meditate, but it goes even deeper than that.
Think about it – your life is a series of reactions. Everything you do, every choice you make is a reaction. Baby’s crying, react and pick her up. Realize the dog hasn’t been out since breakfast, react and take him for a walk. Phone rings, react and answer it. Most of the time, operating on pure reaction can be good and productive.
But think about it another way. Traffic jam on the way to work, react and grit your teeth. Meeting with an important client, react and tense your shoulders. Offhand comment from your spouse, react and be offended. Tired child misbehaves, react and get angry. These are the times where the ability to cultivate a sense of stillness really pays off. If you are able to just stop, take a step back and observe the situation impartially, you can remove the emotion and the stress from the equation and simply act appropriately instead of react in the heat of the moment.
More a Sprint Than a Marathon
Being still isn’t a meditation session – it’s a momentary thing. It’s not sustainable. Stillness flips on and off when you need it to, but it isn’t sustainable for long periods of time because the mind isn’t designed that way. Think about your body – if you needed to sprint to grab a child out of the road, your body could do that for you. But if you wanted to sprint a few miles to the store, your body couldn’t sustain that level of effort for that much time. It’s the exact opposite with your brain – your brain is used to racing a thousand miles a second, but it can stop for a moment, too – but only for a moment, because it cannot sustain such inactivity for long periods. It didn’t evolve that way.
Your body discovers what it’s capable of during a sprint. Your joints move rhythmically and your organs transport oxygen and hormones where they need to go before your body realizes it needs them. For a few seconds, you become a machine. Stillness does the same for your mind. In those brief seconds, your brain dumps everything else in favor of what’s happening now. You experience crystal clarity. All the extra stuff just goes away, and your entire being is focused on the situation at hand.
The benefits extend beyond everyday interactions, too. The Alexander Technique uses stillness as a way to be more aware of your body’s condition and positioning – it helps actors, singers and athletes learn to move their bodies in a way that benefits their performance. Everyday people have used the technique to reduce chronic pain by undoing bad movement habits. It is a well-known stress reliever – and it all boils down to awareness, which is a product of stillness.
You don’t even have to be physically still to experience stillness – that’s why activities like Tai Chi and yoga have such head-clearing properties – because you don’t have enough mental room for anything but the task at hand. Incorporating these types of activities into your schedule can be extremely beneficial to both mind and body.
Stillness brings clarity, which brings focus, which brings peace. Start today.