In a world that is constantly vying for our attention, that very thing has come to be our greatest resource. It’s what advertisers want. It’s what TV wants. It’s what our employers want. It’s what our friends, family, and partners want. While using this precious resource for good cause has a utility in and of itself, do we really want to give every last ounce of it away? How much is too much? How can we manage this outflow to make sure there is an equally abundant inflow to keep us vibrant, healthy and aligned? I’ve recently gone through a stage of complete overstimulation that forced me to step back and contemplate these very questions myself. My personal answer and suggestion, as shared by many others before me is simple: stillness.
What I would like to propose here, is that just maybe, the true answers to our problems often lie less in the act of doing and quite literally, in the doing of nothing at all. In stillness, we pause the inflow of information from the world, providing the opportunity to truly process the experience we are having. It allows for a moment of listening when we can hear what our intuition is telling us, to hear how we truly feel about the circumstances in our life. In more esoteric terms, it gives us a chance to be who we truly are, and see how our outer reality reflects this. In a world that bombards us with stimulation from all angles, contemplation, reflection, and true solitude are certainly more important than ever. Without these moments for nobody but ourselves, we are vulnerable to the world around us. We become a product of our environment, instead of a product of our intentions and dreams. We are indeed able to create whatever reality we decide upon in life, but only if we are in a frame of mind that is capable of doing so. This is the true power of inner stillness.
“That space between your ears—that’s yours. You don’t just have to control what gets in, you also have to control what goes on in there. You have to protect it from yourself, from your own thoughts. Not with sheer force, but rather with a kind of gentle, persistent sweeping. Be the librarian that says “Shhh!” to the rowdy kids, or tells the jerk on his phone to please take it outside. Because the mind is an important and sacred place. Keep it clean and clear.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key
So, with all of these benefits and considerations in mind, how is it that we bring stillness into our lives? One thing to consider, is that there is no simple answer to this question. Each and every one of us will have our own means of experiencing the stillness that is uniquely our own. With a true intention of doing so, we can find the form of ‘pause’ that is right for each of us. This pause is whatever provides you with a moment of silence, while simultaneously giving you a chance to contemplate, reflect, and find clarity. For those who may want a few more ideas on things they can do to bring more stillness into their lives, here are some of my favourite suggestions for anybody seeking a moment of silence for all the right reasons.
Taking some alone time to journal is quite possibly the perfect example of stillness. In doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to process our experiences through the written form. We can take account of the events of our life, journal through our desires, goals, and plans, or we can simply write for the pleasure of it. Sometimes, the whole point of this time is to simply be with ourselves, accepting whatever it is we are experiencing without resistance. I for one use journalling as a processing tool, often overlooking the power that lies in simply writing for the stillness of it. Sometimes an escape from all the processing is what we all really need to regain touch with our inner identity.
Meditation is perhaps the ultimate act of stillness. This activity is in its very essence, the art of focus on the present, ignoring all the considerations and chatter of our nagging monkey mind. Taking time to unwind, focus within and experience the moment at play, is an activity and a practice with far-reaching benefits. Not only does this ritual provide clarity and stillness in the moment, but it also enhances the capacity of our mind to bring this state of mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. Long term meditators have an enhanced brain capacity for focus, calm and clear thinking that they bring to every interaction and challenge. It is literally a workout for the mind with the added benefit of providing a much-needed escape from the bombardment of external stimulation.
Although movement, in general, can provide stillness in its own way, I believe there is nothing that can replace the power of exercise. Working out releases endorphins, hormones, and proteins that have the ability to enhance our ability to learn, while freeing our mind from anxiety and mental clutter. Not only does it keep our minds sharp and youthful, but it also keeps our bodies strong and fit. The inherent connection between mind and body is certainly undeniable, and a very real aspect of mental maintenance comes with physical exercise. Taking these moments to care for and connect with our body can provide our minds with a much-needed moment of pure presence. In this moment of exertion, our focus is internal, and can certainly be a valuable form of stillness.
Working on any form of self-expression that we are truly passionate about at our very core is an amazing form of stillness. For myself personally, I achieve are a rare state of flow when I am recording or editing a podcast, writing an article, or working on any form of personal creative project. As long as the creative activity is something I truly enjoy, I find myself able to completely detach from the external reality that surrounds me, focusing on the project at hand. This form of expression keeps us connected to who we are, what we enjoy and what we want for ourselves. At the very least, it is often quite meditative and helps us train our minds for creativity and self-expression in other areas of our lives as well. Find what makes you tick, and do more of that. This is what intuition truly means, and it really is quite simple.
Get the heck out of your comfort zone. See new things, meet new people, and collect some new and unique experiences. Adventures are something that puts us in the moment, simply because we have to be. When our brains and bodies are absorbing newness, they are sharp, aware and they are like a sponge, forming new neural pathways with each passing event. For myself, this is one major reason why travel has become a passion, or moreover an addiction of mine. Adventures allow us to see how we feel about new things. They allow us to understand the automatic responses that come up in new situations, which we can then contemplate, going ever the more deep in thought and awareness. Stillness comes in many shapes and forms, and living in the true present moment without any form of judgment or comparison is certainly one of these forms. Give this a try and you just may be surprised what you learn about yourself when placed in a situation that is either new or intimidating. It is here where our comfort zone truly expands, and this where unattached experiences takes place.
Family & Friends
This may not be the case for everyone, but for myself, my people are very grounding. They remind me who I am, what I care about and that I can kick back, have some laughs and enjoy any moment. When I take a day off to truly reconnect with friends and family, I find myself charged up for life with a gusto I don’t find many other places. Taking these moments to simply be where I am, with whoever I am with, allows me to enjoy some of the purest presence I know, free from contemplation, planning or organizing. If you haven’t found your people yet, simply set this as an intention for your life. From this place, you can find opportunities that will connect you with them. You will know they are the right ones if they ground you the way my people ground me. Always cherish your family and your friends because those people and your relationships with them are what life is truly about. Aside from our interactions with others, we are basically just walking meat bodies hanging out on a giant rock.
Read A Book
There is truly no better way to utilize the mind while simultaneously giving it a very real break. Reading can inform us, relax us or simply provide a momentary state of detachment. In many ways, reading is quite a meditative practice. For one, it slows the stimulation we allow into our minds. When we read we are tightening this stimuli filter, focusing on the words we are reading instead of what our friend Natalie posted on her Instagram story, or the broken coffee machine at the office. A secondary benefit of this is that a physical book is a really great break from the digital realm. So much of what we do in modern life relies on phones, computers, and technology. There has never been a better time to turn off the phone and pick up a physical paperback book. Diving into a great story is an age-old way of bringing some stillness into a busy routine. Taking these moments for ourselves have, and always will be important.
Spend A Day Alone
This is the art of the “me day”. We live in a world that tells us in so many ways, how we need to be. That we need to be with a partner, that we need to be with friends, or that we need to be successful to be valuable. We are inherently valuable at any moment when we are simply being ourselves, and this requires neither rules, expectations or external validation. We spend so much time doing things with the expectations of others in mind that we often forget what our own value systems truly are. We lose touch with what our inner guidance system is telling us. Self-days are one way we can remind ourselves of what we want, what we like, how we want to live. The premise here is planning a day where we do exactly what we would do if nobody else had a say in the matter. This is an exercise in individuality, stillness, and intuition. Do what YOU want to do, and do what feels right.
Find Yourself Some Nature
This is perhaps the oldest form of stillness known to mankind as a whole. We came from nature, and we will always get back to nature. Get outside, get near some trees, some water or something green. Nature has a calming effect on the mind that is irreplaceable. As humans, we often forget our direct connection to the natural world around us. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We came from this land, and we are evolved to be at peace in its presence. If you live in a big city like myself, this may be moderately more difficult, but you will likely come to cherish your parks more than you ever have before. Touch the grass, touch the trees and absorb their beauty. Be chill, be calm, be still. Enjoy the soothing experience nature provides, and be grateful for every moment of it. If we don’t learn to appreciate it, this could very well one day be gone.
“What do we want more of in life? That’s the question. It’s not accomplishments. It’s not popularity. It’s moments when we feel like we are enough. More presence. More clarity. More insight. More truth. More stillness.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key