Taking time out for yourself every day to be quiet and still is an important part of being human, especially in today’s busy world. Unfortunately, most of us don’t actually do this on a daily basis. We somehow feel that if we are still and “doing nothing” we aren’t being productive. Many of us put our value and self-worth into the hands of what we are doing – how productive we can be. If we sit still for even a few minutes we get restless and grab our phones, turn on the TV or in some way find something to do.
Our world is full of distractions and over stimulation which leads to our minds being distracted and feeling out of control. Sitting down in stillness places us directly in front of our minds. That monkey brain of ours wants to keep being its monkey self. “Why should I slow down. I like the way things are.” But, deep down we know something isn’t right and we crave a sense of feeling more calm, relaxed and whole.
That’s where stillness comes in. If we are always going, doing, acting, moving then the nervous system – specifically the sympathetic nervous system – is on over drive. It’s balancing counterpart – the parasympathetic nervous system – is never activated. This part of the nervous system is what balances out all the action with rest, stillness and absorption. Many people say this is the “rest and digest” portion of our nervous system. But it is way bigger than that. When we slow down we actually create room to be more creative, it is the time we take to reflect upon our lives and acknowledge our feelings, we let life soak in rather than resist it. In stillness we can integrate and process life experiences, whether it is something small like digesting the drive home through hectic traffic or dealing with something much more challenging like the death of a loved one.
Without stillness, we start to live on autopilot. Never really digesting what life is throwing at us. Instead we just push it aside, avoid and deny and begin to feel less and less. When given the choice, most people prefer to do something rather than nothing. This was proven in a study done in 2014 with over 700 people. All the participants had to do was sit in a room by themselves for 6-15 minutes and do nothing. However, they had the option to press a shock button if they couldn’t take the stillness and quiet and wanted something to do. An unbelievable 67% of men and 24% of women chose to shock themselves rather than sit quietly with their thoughts!!
What we call doing nothing or being still is crucial for our physiological selves, and is essential to maintain a happy, peaceful and balanced life. Activities such as reading a book, relaxing while watching television, taking a nap, or going for a hike have positive influences on the body and mind. But to get the most, we all need to be quiet and still with no activities to distract us. Stillness brings us into the present moment – the benefits of which have been well researched. Here, in the present we let the mind slow down along with the body, we develop more equanimity, mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to ourselves and others with kindness, compassion, acceptance and love.
There are many ways to bring stillness into your life to start enjoying the benefits.
- You can start simple by setting a timer for 3-5 minutes and sit at your kitchen table when things are quiet and just breathe.
- Consciously watch a sunrise or sunset with no other distractions.
- Meditation is an extraordinary tool to access stillness of the body and quieting of the mind. There are several simple techniques available that encourage observation of the breath, mind and the moment. Here’s a great link for some options and even some guided meditations to listen to.
- Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation where you lay down and do nothing. The teacher offers a guided meditation that effortlessly takes you into the realm of relaxation, healing and harmony.
- Restorative Yoga classes also offer the body and mind a chance to slow down and go within to process, unwind and rest. We have a several of these classes each week. Definitely take a Yoga Nidra or Restorative class if you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or too busy to slow down.
Rasheed Ogunlaru puts it nicely: “Thought for the day: we have far too many of them. And we prize them too highly; more so than we do the power of silence, mindfulness and pure kindness.”
I do hope during this seemingly extra busy time of year that you will find value in yourself enough to be still, even for just a few minutes each day. I promise that if you consistently take this time for yourself each day you will begin to notice a positive shift in the way you approach the world, how you handle stress with more ease and will feel a greater sense of peace and happiness that comes from within you.
May the light of love shine brightly upon you today and every day.
Founder of Maitri Yoga