Why and How to Be Still

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In this modern and always-connected world, it’s become a challenge to be still. Being still, you see, is more than just not talking or not moving.

But even without talk and motion, our media-laden world has deprived us of opportunities to be still, albeit with our consent. Left alone, we’re on the internet, fingers on the keypad, texting, chatting, emailing, playing games or listening to music on our smartphones. Being still also goes beyond being motionless, because we can be stationary, but our minds are filled with noise and thoughts.

It’s such a pity, this not knowing the transformative effects that stillness brings into our lives. But we can all learn, no matter how young or old we start. Meditation gurus and spiritual mentors attract followers not because they are loud and hyperactive, but because they are still and silent. The discipline of stillness is a counterintuitive concept – the more we learn to keep still, the faster we move forward mentally and spiritually.

Why should we learn to be still

We become more productive.

It sounds illogical to say we accomplish more by being still instead of through action. Yet, being busy running around trying to do a million things results in not having done anything that matters. We start on a task, then move on to another because it’s just as important and urgent. At the end of the day, when we take stock of our to-do list, we’re surprised that nothing was completed.

be still

But by making stillness a daily habit, we shift into a mental quiet that carries on through our day so that as we go on with what we have to do, we feel more organized and not as excitable. We learn to focus, prioritize and streamline, completing one task before moving on to the next.

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Albert Einstein

We find inner peace.

Often, in our hectic lives, we are filled with worry and anxiety over petty matters – chores at home and projects in the office. Finding an interval to be still and shutting off worldly thoughts give us space and time for introspection, and this leads to a sense of wellbeing and inner peace.

inner peace

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”

Herman Hesse

We keep our perspective.

Practicing stillness is freeing our minds of all noise, including thoughts, dreams, and regrets. Being still frees us from demands that we normally react to. It brings us to a nonjudgmental state and enables us to view people or events without prejudice.

a quiet mind

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

Hans Margolius

We feel happier and more content.

The habit of being still ultimately makes us realize what our priorities in life are and helps us offload the baggage of the past and anxieties for the future. We shed off our grandiose self-image without losing our self-esteem and we become happier and content with who and what we are.

happiness

“The sorrows of duty, like the heat of the sun, have scorched your heart.

But let stillness fall on you, with its sweet and cooling showers, and you will find happiness.”

Ashtavakra Gita 18:3

How to be still

Being still is not limited to its physical execution. We may not be moving at all, but our heads are filled with all kinds of thoughts and our eyes and ears are distracted by visual things and noise. Here are some tips that have helped me keep still.

how to be still

Find the best time.

Early in the morning works best for me. Everyone’s asleep and the whole world is quiet. I have come to look forward to this special time and I do it before any other activity.

Find a place in your house.

Choose a space that’s free of clutter and doesn’t make you feel constricted. It can be the study room, your back porch, or a chair beside a window. If possible, pick one where you won’t be interrupted.

Use a timer to track your allotted time for stillness.

Our minds’ perception of time can be misleading. If you’ve picked 20 minutes to be still, it can be very long on some days or very short on other days. With a timer, it is what it is. For convenience, I use the smartphone’s timer on the clock app.

Position yourself.

I find sitting upright in a chair to work best for me. Lying down sends me back to sleep, as does the lotus position. Be comfortable, relax and put your hands on your lap. Then close your eyes.

Shut out external and internal distractions and stimuli.

Think of nothing. This is the most difficult part of being still. Do not go astray with thoughts of anything. Be in the present that is nothingness. Don’t look back to the past or ahead to the future. A common mistake in the practice of stillness is to pray or to focus on the God you believe in. These thoughts only bring you “pernicious peace” and lead you away from stillness.

Say a mantra.

A mantra is a word or phrase uttered repeatedly as a chant or in the silence of your mind. Some people choose a mantra that is life-affirming or has a positive meaning for them. The purpose of the mantra is to suppress external and mental distractions, like your thoughts. But I find that a meaningless mantra more effective because I won’t be tempted to dwell on it and stray from my stillness. Examples of meaningless mantras are “Ommm,” “Hare Hare Khrisna Khrisna,” or “Maranatha.”

Focus on your breathing.

Breathe consciously, deeply and rhythmically. As you say your mantra, inhale and exhale at regular intervals with the breath coming from your chest.

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