Friday, March 21, 2008

How to Find Inner Stillness

I would like to write today on the topic of inner stillness of the mind. Most of us are familiar with its opposites all too well:

Hectic life - too much going on leading to feelings of not coping
Rushing - anxiety of being late
Frenzy - a burning desire to do something
Distraction - being interrupted - not keeping focus

It is interesting to see that being mentally still does not mean necessary stillness of the body. In face we could be doing something but doing it in a mindful manner. In today's society we may often feel encouraged to juggled ten tasks at a time. But the feeling one gets from focusing on a single activity without interruption, with stillness of mind, and having had sufficient sleep is truly a fantastic feeling indeed. It can sometimes feel like one has gained an extra dimension of perspective, and perhaps even feeling more awake than usual. You will notice that your decisions are of a higher quality as you are better able to take in and process what is going on around you, and your reaction time will be quicker.

Before one can feel relaxed and channel the mind, the first step is to achieve stillness of the mind.

To describe it is hard, as it does come in many levels of stillness, and in different situations. I am often feeling still during meditation (a topic for another time), but the time that I can recall I experienced it at its highest intensity in the last year was when getting onto a plane to Japan at the start of a three week holiday. It was a feeling of calmness, feeling all tension leave the body, timelessness, and lack of worry. I knew I had no real deadlines or deliverables for the next three weeks!

This is interesting as it shows how my usual everyday life is a cause of tension. I also experience stillness at the start of a day that is a weekend, or from starting a work day with some meditation. I think the feeling is from getting up and doing everything calmly in an un-rushed manner knowing that I don't need to do anything for now unless I voluntarily choose to do it.

There are some other ways to gain stillness in everyday life, which I would like to share with you:

1) Make some personal time for stillness and reflection if you haven't already done so. For me this is the first 30 minutes to 3 hours after waking up. Stillness won't come to you unless you make time for it. Give yourself permission to not worry and stress for this time - while this is hard you will find your life will not fall apart as a result, and you will thank yourself for it later.

2) Do one thing at a time and be mindful of it.

3) If you sense worry in yourself, the first step is to think deep what are the roots of the worry. Then use your worry minimizing tools from your experience to remove the worry. Look at each one in turn, and then look away. Often merely the conscious act of observing yourself worrying is sufficient to eliminate it. This is a topic that deserves at least a full post in itself.

4) If you sense anxiety related to time, perhaps you are choosing the wrong time to be still. First thing in the morning is often the best for me, before other people are awake. This is also the time used by Zen Monks to practice zazen (meditation). Be calmer and try to reduce your impatience using your calmness tools from your experience. Move slowly.

5) Contemplate some things in your life that give you happiness and comfort.

6) Observe nature, animals and natural beauty where you can find them. Engage all the senses and listen, smell and look. Don't look with the eyes, but with the mind. Do not judge what you see, just take it in.

7) Remember a time when things were worse and be thankful for what we have today.

8) Don't think too much.

All of these are big topics to explore, but I have tried to keep it brief. Hopefully we can find time to explore these topics in the future.

Thanks for reading, and I would be interested to hear comments on what readers do to find stillness.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the post - just reading through your tips on findings stillness left me feeling calmer!

I found ritual and habits(no matter how mundane it may seem) are great technique that works for me. This might be something as simple as reading a favorite site with a cup of tea/coffee at the same time each morning, or perhaps watering a flowerbed at each day when coming home.

Enjoyed reading and look forward to your next post!

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