We are a society obsessed with doing. If we’re not constantly working, achieving, and succeeding, then we’re not happy. We believe that we only deserve to rest after a gruelling day in the office, after we’ve been to the gym, and completed our evening classes. It is not okay to be still.
An example of our fear of stillness is that much dreaded “awkward silence” that we so studiously avoid. We think it means that we’re not getting on with the person, that we’re not suited as a couple, that the other person is boring, or even worse, they’ll think we’re boring.
We stave off stillness by making sure we’re in the company of others at every possible moment. And if we’re alone when we go for a walk or jog, we have the iPod buds firmly placed in our ears. We flick radio channels as we drive. We watch television or read until our eyes are falling shut at night. Stillness makes us uncomfortable as it may lead to reflection, to feelings, to questioning and to doubt. We don’t allow ourselves to have an individual thought outside of the media’s collective mindset. We have the same opinions as Ray D’Arcy. We want to resemble the newest neighbour on “Desperate Housewives”. We fear what “RTÉ News” wants us to fear.
Everything must be fast and bright and convenient. If a webpage takes too long to load, we reach for the mobile to send a text. We run to make tea during the ad break. We do the ironing as our children tell us about their day. We eat to suppress the feared emotions that stillness might awaken.
I’m a prime example of someone who isn’t happy with myself unless I’m doing. I listen to the radio as I walk or prepare a meal. When I’m at home, I’m usually online. If my phone doesn’t beep for a while, I feel lonely. Duvet days fill me with self-loathing. I’m constantly doing, doing, doing until the moment I drop off to sleep. It’s only recently that I’ve come to this understanding, this awareness of how hard I am on myself. Yes, I still want to do. But I also want to be able to just be. And it’s how I react to myself when I’m not doing that I’m working on changing.
Why change it, you might ask? It’s good to be doing, to keep busy, to be the best you can be. But sometimes stillness forces itself upon us in the form of illness, or a traffic jam, or a snow storm. We panic. How can we survive being still? Are we no longer acceptable if we’re not doing? Are we worthless somehow? Take note of the next time you’re flung into stillness, how you react, and how much you learn from it.
As Eckhart Tolle pointed out, this fear of simply “being” instead of always “doing” is partly why we don’t want to grow older. We can’t accept ourselves as valid human beings unless we’re always “doing”. We often don’t value the wisdom of the elderly as they, deservedly, sit back and muse on life. We are called “human beings” not “human doings”. So why do we find it so hard to just be?
Stillness isn’t something to get through as quickly as possible. Stillness is something we should be seeking out regularly. Our bodies need time to rejuvenate. Our minds need time to switch off.
Here are some ways to experience the wonder of stillness:
1) Live in the present moment
Living in the past brings on feelings of regret, sadness and longing. Living in the future creates pangs of apprehension and worry. It is when you relax into the stillness of the present moment that you can truly be yourself, and be at peace. Observe what is around you, feel the warmth or coolness of the air, inhale the perfume of the present moment.
Meditation is an excellent method of transporting you to the stillness within yourself. Meditation expands your mind and awakens your inner power. If meditation is too big a step for you right now, try yoga or Pilates, or simply sit and take a couple of deep breaths. Just give yourself a few moments a day to be still. Here’s a relaxing Buddhist Meditation clip…
3) Be quiet
It’s very hard to be still when there’s constant music or radio chatter in your ear. The next time you’re going for a walk in the countryside, take out your ear phones for even just a few minutes. Listen to the sound of the running river, of the singing birds. Stop your power walk to inhale the scent of the yellow furze, to inspect the colour and shape of the berries, to look up at the amazing blue sky. Close your eyes and feel the sunbeams dance across your cheeks.
4) Change routine
Instead of watching TV, reading or listening to music any time you’re not busy with work or with other people, take a moment to be still with yourself. Ask yourself how you’re feeling instead of running from such a supposedly scary scenario. Maybe your body’s been screaming at you that it’s exhausted, stressed, or sad but you’ve been too busy doing, and life has been too loud for you to hear it. If you take time to enjoy stillness every day, you’ll prevent yourself from getting sick. From staying too long in an unhappy relationship or soul-destroying job. When you’re more in tune with your body’s needs, you’re guaranteed to experience a much happier and healthier version of yourself.
5) Go with it
The next time you’re feeling tired or unwell, go with it. Your body is very clever. If you would only listen to it once in a while, it would tell you all you need to know. “I’m tired”, “I’m hungry”, “This doesn’t feel right”. If you’re lacking motivation, don’t give out to yourself for being lazy. Your body may just need to rest. Don’t beat yourself up about going for a nap in the middle of the day or missing work or a class here and there. The sooner you embrace the stillness, the more invigorated you’ll become afterwards. You will find that you’re much more creative, energetic, and positive as a result.
Stillness is probably the least talked about self-help tool even though it brings about health, inner calm and positivity. Stillness will remove you from the madness of society and place you in a higher, more peaceful realm. Stillness will set you free.