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How to Find Strength in Stillness

Learning to stop, listen, and learn.

Key points

  • Staying focused only on what's next can make a person miss out on life's messages.
  • Stillness reduces stress and can provide clarity and new solutions regarding problems.
  • To find stillness, one can take a moment to go inward, see one's thoughts and feelings, and avoid reactivity for a few seconds.
Jarkko Patana/iStock
Source: Jarkko Patana/iStock

This culture values action, movement, success, and the quest for more, more, more, and more. If you aren’t moving and you aren’t conquering and you aren’t rushing, there must be something wrong with you. The faster someone goes, the more important they seem to be. Working long days, multiple jobs, and through nights and weekends is acceptable and valued in many cases.

Some companies tell you to take your vacation, get some downtime, take time off—but then reward the person who works through their holidays and pitches in to help out on their vacation. With technology so available—even to emails showing up on one’s wrist as soon as they are delivered, if you wear the right watch—disconnection is a fantasy for many.

But staying locked into the rush, frantic to do the next thing and then the next means that in many cases, you are missing out on the messages life is trying to send to you. Only in stillness can you hear what you need to. They aren't always life-changing messages; they could be creative solutions to the problem you are trying to solve, remembering something or someone important you had put to the side and forgotten about, or checking in with your body on your health and taking the messages your physical body is sending while you might be too busy to listen.

Stillness provides opportunities to watch the frenetic ideas that float throughout your brain. Stillness brings up that “oh no” experience of the to-do list that keeps getting longer, no matter how quickly you run to get things done. Most importantly, stillness allows you the chance to see that many of your relationships are based upon hurrying to arrive, rushing to get through a conversation and move on to the next thing, and not really listening because your mind is racing about what needs to happen next, next, next.

Learning to be still can:

  • Reduce your stress—it sends a message to your mind and body that it is time to slow down.
  • Help you sleep—a racing mind keeps you awake at night and invades your dreams.
  • Improve listening—allows you to truly tune in to what another person is saying and meaning,
  • Provide ideas—can often offer clarity on something, and can allow creativity to come in and give you new ideas.
  • Remind you—of the present moment and how you feel and think in any given moment.

Stillness is truly a gift—one that many people refuse to open on a daily basis. What does stillness look like in a hurried, frantic life when the kids are crying for dinner, the boss is asking when that next project will be finished, and your mother-in-law needs to be picked up from the hospital right now? Life doesn’t offer you many invitations, so you have to invite yourself. Stillness doesn’t mean you sit there like a statue or don’t move for long periods. It can be practiced in all of your daily life activities.

Ways to practice stillness in everyday life

Before a meal, stop. Be still as you smell the food. Be still as you take your first bite and realize the texture and the taste. Let your mind focus only on the food. Sit up straight. Have the table close to you so you don’t lean. Raise the food slowly to your mouth. See your hand as it raises. Connect to the process of eating.

When someone is upsetting you and you feel you need to respond—be still. Take a moment to go inward. See your thoughts and feelings. Stay for a moment in this state. Don’t react. Don’t fix it. Don’t respond. Just be still, even for a few seconds, to connect to yourself.

When about to get into your car, if you are in a safe area and free from harm, be still before you open the door. Touch the metal and connect with your thoughts and feelings as you are about to drive. Is your mind already at your destination? Are you raring to get in and just go? Be still for two to three minutes before you open the door. If it is cold outside, or you are not in a good area, do this once you sit in the car. Lock your doors and be still before you turn on the ignition.

When you walk somewhere, stop from time to time. Be still and listen to the sounds around you. Feel the air on your skin. Recognize smells and experiences. Once you start walking again, deliberately be slower with your steps. Notice the feeling of your foot on the ground. Notice how you are standing and moving.

Before you respond to an email or pick up the phone to call someone, be still. Be aware of your thoughts associated with the communication. Connect with your thoughts, your feelings, and your reactions. It’s not for judging, or changing what you might say; it’s for being still before you engage. Connect to the experience of communication.

These are just a few daily activities to help you incorporate stillness into your life. There are thousands presented to you each and every day. Choose one and practice with it. Don’t engage in stillness with a purpose or an outcome. Do it for yourself to become more aware of your life in general. Stillness isn’t an end destination; it merely enhances the journey to wherever you are going.

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