“The quieter you become, the more you can hear” – Ram Dass
We all probably have different definitions of what being still really looks like for us. For some it may be taking a quite walk away from the crowds, while for others it may be sitting quietly in a room by yourself gathering your thoughts or perhaps for you it comes through prayer and mediation. However you choose to come to the place where all things outside yourself slow down or outright stop, and you allow your soul and spirit to come to a place of rest, it is imperative that we schedule in these moments regularly to maintain mental peace. Like many of you, at times I claim that I am experiencing my moment(s) of being still, but not one thing has slowed down in my immediate circle, especially the most essential things. When this happens, I find myself not getting enough rest, becoming easily agitated and not being very thoughtful towards the most important people in my life. It’s never an intentional dismissive attitude to a loved one or a close friend, but it hurts the same nonetheless, right? We know this because we have all been on the receiving side of someone needing to take a frickin break, chill out or “bring it down by a thousand”. The interesting dynamic about this moment we must schedule in is, when we fail to routinely do it, it will often invade our space like a rear-end car accident. In other words, you may lose the privilege and opportunity to methodically adjust your life temporarily in order to gain and sustain your peace of mind if you wait too long. It will just happen unannounced and usually we’re not ready for it, especially this way.
So as our world becomes increasingly busy, with technology wrapping a lasso around our virtual necks, I want to list a few things that I believe we must consider in order to maintain authentic stillness.
1. Establish a day for your own mental health – This seems and should be fundamental, but it is not. The fact that most of us suffer from sleep deprivation, and we repeat the act daily is evidence that we have not made being still a priority for ourselves yet. It’s second nature for us to schedule a meeting at work, make appointments that others have scheduled for us or to knock-out the deadlines we have. But what about you? When was the last time that you scheduled a deadline for yourself that included only downtime for you and no one was allowed to break it, not even you? I can recall when I use to have a monthly massage for one hour in my house. It was on the schedule and I felt terrific. An hour of soft music, candles and relaxation. It was absolutely wonderful! As I reflect on that time in my life, I can’t even remember why I stopped them. I suppose it was normal life occurrences, and after 3-5 years have gone by I wonder what the heck happened. So what will you do for yourself and how often will you make it to happen? Go ahead, look at the calendar, set a day, establish a frequency and commit to you.
2. Remove things that easily distract you – So contrary to popular belief, the television is probably not going to be the thing that helps you to sustain peace of mind or experience stillness. Best thing to do is to remove yourself from the room where the T.V. lives. Perhaps that means going outside, taking a walk or a short run. Most electronic gadgets become distractions, e.g., smartphones, laptops and tablets. It’s hard to believe that we once lived without the ability to connect with anyone and everyone every thirty seconds! Now we are addicted to being notified about something, and regretfully most of it isn’t always useful, uplifting or relevant information. So walk away from the devices during this time. You will be amazed about what you discover with uninterrupted quiet time. The ideas and thoughts you have that typically get flushed away with the noise and distractions that surround you, will be allowed to surface more regularly and make an impact. My best ideas have always come when I gave myself time to reflect and ponder. Even if the by-product was nothing more than me smiling and feeling better, that was worth every minute I allowed myself to have that time. Reconfigure your life so that things, people and stuff aren’t what dominates your time. Take control by shutting down outside devices on a regular basis and reflect on what really matters in life, which is the people we love and the dreams that can change the world (for the better), if we allow them to be birthed in us first.
3. Don’t apologize for having “me time” – One of the hardest things to maintain and a common threat to being still is walking away from others. If you are the one that has always been accessible, everyone’s “go to” person and the glue to your familial structure, than I’m talking to you. The first thing that will come out of your mouth is, “there is not enough time”. I get it, been there and have a similar situation, but when you see the results of not committing to you, you will then understand you cannot afford not to do something different. Perhaps your best friend or family will feel abandoned when you decide to check out for a short while. Assure them that all is well, but you need to take some time for yourself. This will most likely be more uncomfortable for you than anyone else initially, because you are now signing up to no longer be everyone’s savior, sounding board and answer man. After a while it will feel refreshing and you will never allow yourself to return to that place again, but realize it will take regular practice to get there. The goal is to learn that availability does not have to equate to accessibility. In other words, just because your home doesn’t mean you have to answer the door. Once you make the decision to “do you” without an explanation or need for outside approval, you have arrived and will be living a significant part of your life for you.
Periodically we all need a reminder to breathe, close our eyes and reflect on what is. Perhaps the life we’re living is not what we ultimately wanted or saw for ourselves, but until those things change we must live and deal with the realities that currently exist. Being still has nothing to do with avoidance, denial or the numbing of our current conditions. It truly is about accepting life as it is, but not settling for it, as it is. It’s when you realize that your power does not live in the circumstances or their outcomes. The power is your ability to believe outside the situation, beyond the stress and above the confusion, but we can never arrive at this place if we fail to take the time to ensure that the most important person in it (you and me), can hear that small still voice inside us all. That voice that has solutions, clear directions and insight to a better way. When we hear, we can respond and take steps that promote harmony, hope and joy in our lives.