Meditation is often referred to as a practice, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that mindfulness is a way of life. It is a state of mind. It is something you can do while doing other things. There are many activities that shut off the noise and bring you to the present moment, but they might not all be for you. If you’re into complicated activities, that will turn off the mind. But so are simple, tedious activities. Below are the best things to do that quiet the mind. [Read more…] about The Best Activities to Quiet the Mind
In a world where we are constantly bombarded by a variety of stimuli, silence is getting harder and harder to find. Not everyone craves silence though because the sound of silence can be deafening as much as it can be a refuge from the storm.
The demands of daily life mean little time to ourselves. And even when we are alone, technology has all but ensured that we are truly able to experience peace and quiet. Non-stop notifications pop up on our phones telling us to answer an “urgent” email, that the product in our shopping cart is on sale, that people are liking and commenting on our posts and tweets, and that we basically need to have our phones on hand 24/7.
There’s the sound of arguing people, honking cars, music in the other room, the clicking of your keyboard, and barking dogs. The noise is incessant, and all of these contribute to what is called outer noise.
Outer noise, however, is not just what you hear. Outer noise refers to the stimuli you receive from your environment. This includes the flashing lights of an ambulance passing by, window displays and billboards that tempt you to buy whatever it is they are trying to sell, the smell of garbage in an alleyway, and even the muggy polluted air that makes it hard to breathe.
Noise is everywhere, leaving most of us over-stimulated.
Finding Quiet Time
Finding some quiet time to spend alone with your own thoughts and to recharge is vital to your well-being – not just your mental well-being but to your physical health as well. Our brain NEEDS more quiet time.
Finding peace and quiet can be tricky, especially if you have children or are extremely busy, but it is still doable. You can schedule quick pauses throughout the day to find some moments of silence. Simple things like shutting off your phone, doing yoga, meditating, or even just eating your breakfast in silence.
If you truly want some peace and quiet, it shouldn’t be a problem. As they say, when there’s a will, there’s a way. The bigger problem though is not in finding ways to escape outer noise but in keeping that scary inner noise at bay.
To shut off outer noise all you need to do is go to your bedroom, close the curtains, turn off the lights AND your phone, put on your comfiest clothes, and drift off. But as everyone knows, sleep can still elude you even in the quietest of rooms. It is almost impossible to get a good night’s rest when you are experiencing inner turmoil when you cannot turn off the inner noise.
Inner noise makes it difficult to be alone. It nags us, reminding us of our long to-do list. It is our thoughts and emotions sweeping over us, filling us with sadness, loneliness, anger, anxiety, and fear. It leaves our mind racing and drains us emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Inner noise is insidious because, unlike outer noise, it lives within us and with us everywhere we go. It is something that has started to prey on our minds from the moment we experienced our first hurt as a child and continues to grow with every negative thought and experience.
As hard as it may be to shut off outer noise, it is even harder to escape inner noise.
Finding Solace in Silence
The fear of having to listen to our inner voices, when the voices are filled with pain and fear, is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people embrace the noisiness of the world. Having people around us, doing things non-stop, and relying on instant and constant entertainment helps drown out the inner noise. Dealing with outer noise all the time can be irritating and exhausting, but facing our inner demons is much harder.
Sure, you can go on about your life ignoring the inner noise as much as you can. You can fill every waking moment with music, TV shows, going out with friends, running after your kids, working yourself to the bone, or even throwing yourself with passion into helping others. In fact, you can do much good in this world by being constantly on the go, but in the end, all the “outer noise” both good and bad, will not be enough to truly silence the inner noise.
The only way you can find true silence is by filtering out the outer noise and learning to listen to what your inner noise is trying to say. The internal turmoil you feel does not exist just to torture you; it is there to tell you something.
If you are to find solace in silence, the first thing you need to do is understand where all the inner conflict and negativity are coming from. You have to face yourself, spend time in silence, and learn from it. There will still be days when it will be hard to find peace but those are the days when you need to seek silence most. Just keep at it, and take the time to reflect and meditate. Sooner than later, you will find that moments of silence will turn into a source of comfort and encouragement instead of moments spent in unease with yourself.
“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”
― Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Mindful living. Slowing down. Power of the Pause.
What ever you call it, the idea of taking a pause – a break or time off – to renew oneself is not new. However, interest in the topic saw a boom in the last decade with the publishing of the book, The Power of the Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less, in 2011. It is so popular that you will find resources on it everywhere. You can find Harvard Business Review articles to TEDx videos that explain how it can help you in various aspects of your life, from career change to connecting with your inner self. This is not surprising given how we all need to take time to pause, whether it be for a few seconds of deep breathing or a two-year sabbatical.
Meditation and the power of the pause
Mindful living encompasses all aspects of our lives. It is a way of being.
The power of the pause, on the other hand, is a tool that can help us live in a more mindful manner. It is central to the practice of mindfulness, because it is the first thing we need to do each time we meditate – stop.
In practicing mindfulness through meditation, we try to focus our attention or awareness to the present moment. However, to be able to be fully present on the now requires that we stop and let go of everything. This means letting go of the past, even that past that was just five minutes ago; the future, from our to-do-list to aspirations; and anything else that ties us beyond what we are experiencing at that very moment. It is the ultimate pause.
Of course, anyone who has ever meditated knows that thoughts and feelings that do not belong in the present invariably creep in. They distract us from focusing on our breath, the droning sound of the fan, and the feeling of peace that has just started to settle in our being. At that very moment though, mindfulness still prevails if we acknowledge those feelings and thoughts without judgement, learn to accept that they are a part of us, and let them go so that we can move on with our meditation practice. With every second that passes, we need to stop to be able to take stock of what is to truly be in a state of mindfulness.
Harnessing the power of the pause beyond meditation
The power of the pause, as in mindful living, goes beyond the practice of meditation. You need to take a pause regularly to avoid burn out, be more effective in the different roles you take on, and live in a manner that nurtures your whole wellbeing.
Taking a pause for self-care
In trying to live more mindfully, harnessing the power of the pause for self-care is essential. You can incorporate little breaks throughout your day, and in your weekly and monthly routine. Little breaks can mean getting up from your desk and stretching your back for a few counts, spending a minute for quick mindfulness exercises, or taking a power nap after lunch. It can mean having a cup of coffee while everyone is still in bed, putting on headphones to tune the world out while doing your bedtime routine, or going out for a walk with your dog.
Pauses can also come in the form of what others may see as self-indulgence. It is more than just taking a short break to keep your sanity. It is much needed self-care, and it does not matter what the activity is, as long as you get away from the hectic pace of daily life and spend some time with yourself enjoying something you love to do. Things you can do for your special alone time can be anything from scheduling a weekly massage and trip to the nail salon, a monthly museum or fishing trip, or even a dinner date with yourself.
Taking a pause for self-growth
Taking a pause does not always mean doing nothing. Instead, one way to harness the power of the pause though is by doing something else that will help you grow.
Take time off from what you do on a day-to-day basis and push yourself out of your comfort zone. As the saying goes…
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.“
Remember though that one of the key things in pursuing personal growth is that pushing yourself to do more and be more all the time is not the healthy way to go about it. No one can do everything all at once. You have to be mindful of what truly matters to you.
Take a pause from the things that drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally and then focus your time and energy on those that take you another step closer towards your personal goals. You need to stop doing things that do not add value to your life and invest your time in those that you will help you achieve your goals.
Take a pause from binge-watching and sign up for daily yoga/art/cooking/language classes – whether offline or online.
Take a pause from tumultuous relationships and go on a journey of self-discovery “Eat, Pray, Love” style.
Take a pause from excessive online shopping and start investing your money in something more meaningful.
Take a sabbatical and pick up where you left off on that passion project that you thought you have given up on.
Take a pause from social media and take time to nurture relationships face-to-face, one-on-one, in real time.
Remember, pauses may be quick or long, temporary or permanent, but in the end pause is a must if you want to get where you want to be.
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