1. the absence of movement or sound.
2. SYNONYMS: Calmness, Serenity, Tranquility, Inactivity, Noiselessness, Peace, Quiet
How often would you say you experience stillness in your life? Once a day? Once a week? Or maybe, never? In my quest to transform our home to a place of joy and peace, there came a time when I had to face the fact that I rarely experienced stillness.
Most of my days were spent running from one activity to another, taking care of the have to's on my list, feeling overwhelmed by all of the things that were not getting done and feeling practically exhausted at the end of each day. I mean let's be honest...somedays it was hard just to find a moment to shower, let alone experience calmness, tranquility and serenity.
Life was BUSY...and that often did not make for a calm and peaceful home or a tranquil mind.
The truth is, some days I desperately needed a short break from that crazy whirlwind that was my life. Just a few moments of CALM in my day to check in and settle down. So I began searching for ways to add those moments into my day, and this week I wanted to share with you the 5 steps I took to "BE STILL" in my busy life.
Have you ever noticed how much sound there is around? Without even noticing it, we are often barraged with noise from TV's, car stereos, devices, traffic and kid's from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to sleep at night. We are so inundated with input from multiple sources, sometimes simultaneously, that it is nearly impossible to hear our own thoughts let alone feel calm and tranquil. When I started to pay attention to all of the sound input I encountered on a daily basis, I was surprised by how unconscious I was about most of it.
For example, when I got in my car, the radio was just always on. I love music, so it didn't register as "noise" necessarily. One day, when I was on my way to the grocery store, I turned the radio off and drove in silence and found that rather than driving from point A to point B completely unconsciously, I had a new experience. An experience of being present for the entire drive. Noticing things I had never noticed before, even though I had driven the same route hundreds of times, and when I arrived, I somehow felt calmer. I began to practice this on a regular basis and rather than racing from one thing to the next most days, I found that my time in the car became an opportunity to settle down and unwind. I had a few moments to be present, to think, or maybe not think. Either way, there was newfound tranquility that came from driving that I hadn't experienced before. I also found that the same was true in our home.
Rather than buzzing around the house with the TV on in the background or my favorite Pandora station playing, I turned everything off and let the house be quite whenever I could.
I became super mindful of the noise in my external environment and whenever I found an opportunity to turn it off, I took it. Even though I was still busy, there was something very powerful about the silence that calmed me down and soothed my soul.
CREATE A STILL SPACE
Sometimes there is just no escaping the noise and busyness in your home. Let's face it, most of us don't live alone and we don't always have control of our external environment. This happens often for me. Kids are running around with their friends, hubby's watching a movie, dogs are barking. You know the usual noise of living.
My solution to this was to create a space in my home where I could retreat, even just for a short time. I decided to create a cozy little nook in the corner of my bedroom mostly because it was at the far end of the house and if I closed the door, it was pretty quiet.
I wanted a small space that signaled it was time to take a break from busy and sit still for a bit.
I put a comfy chair in the corner and kept my favorite candle on the table beside it. I made sure a copy of whatever book I was reading was nearby as well as my journal and maybe a new magazine I had picked up. My little nook became the place where I put things that I rarely had time to enjoying the course of my busy day, but that I was longing to have time for. After awhile, anytime I sat in that chair, it was as if my body and mind knew it was time to settle down and that this was the "still space".
The funny thing is, my daughter often joins me in there now. She knows it's quite time, so she brings a book with her and sits and reads right next to me. It's good to be still together and I think she appreciates having a place away from her phone and computer as much as I do.
SCHEDULE STILL TIME
Several months ago, I shared with you how I made a conscious decision to change the course of my life by stepping off the "hamster wheel" and being much more mindful about how I spent my free time. (If you're interested, you can read that post HERE)
Part of that transformation was to schedule not only the have-to's everyday, but also the want-to's. This meant paying attention to the things that brought me joy and peace and consciously scheduling time for those things in my day. For me this included things like a regular yoga practice, down time with my teenage daughter and date nights with my husband. It also included scheduling FREE time.
Actually planning to do absolutely nothing...time to be still.
At first I honestly didn't see any space for stillness in my day. Okay, maybe I could fit in 10 minutes between going to the grocery store and getting dinner started, or fifteen minutes after dinner, but before bath time...so that's what I did. I took ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there, whenever I could, and before I knew it I found a little bit of that serenity and tranquility creeping into every day.
It felt like a gift I was giving not only to myself, but to my entire family. I felt calmer, happier and more relaxed even after just fifteen minutes of quite time and that spilled over into how I interacted with everyone in my house.
Now, as I'm planning my week or scheduling appointments, I always make sure there is space in my day. Even just fifteen minutes so I take time to consciously be quiet.
TAKE A TECHNOLOGY BREAK
I know this one may be obvious and there is a lot of talk about the impact of technology on our overall well being. I feel this in a very real way, for the three months we spend at our ranch every summer where we are virtually unplugged. I wrote at length about the positive impact unplugging has had on our whole family, but I find it much harder to put down my phone or computer when we are in the city. (You can read that post HERE)
Frankly I love technology. I'm kind of a tech geek and totally appreciate the benefits of having so much information at my fingertips. I'm also aware that it has a very negative impact on my ability to relax and feel calm when I am out of balance and don't take a break from it.
I probably struggle with finding this balance the most, because the thing that I have chosen to spend my time doing requires that I be plugged in.
As I am sitting here writing this, new emails are flashing in the corner of my screen and my phone is sitting next to me with Instagram and Facebook comments to respond to.
There are photos that need editing and research that needs to be completed. In any given moment, my mind is going in six different directions and frankly, that can be exhausting. I know we all experience this to one degree or another. It is hard to escape from it, but one thing that has become clear for me is, when I consciously step away from technology for an extended period time, I feel happier, more connected to the people I care about and above all calmer.
Those times I sit in my "still place" or in the car with the radio off are times when technology is also put away. I have found that I cannot achieve stillness through technology. I cannot sit in my favorite bedroom chair, with my phone in my hand and find tranquility. So I take a break, sometimes just for fifteen minutes a day, but that's often enough.
At the risk of letting my inner yogi completely run wild here, I cannot tell you how much deep breathing has impacted my overall well being. I hesitated to include this section because I didn't want to be too "zen" with you all, but I feel so strongly that CONSCIOUS BREATHING can be a game changer in so many ways, I had to include it.
So here's the deal. Because our normal breathing takes place unconsciously, we rarely pay attention to it. If it was compromised in some way, we would likely take notice, but otherwise it just happens. The problem is, stress, anxiety and just daily life can cause us to breath more shallowly and this can have a negative effect on our physical, mental and emotional health.
I personally became aware of the benefits of deep breathing through my yoga practice and yoga teacher training, but it honestly doesn't matter how or where you do this. Maybe it happens while you are out for a run or walk, or sitting on a meditation mat, or lying in bed before you sleep. The point is to find just a few minutes a day to BREATHE...DEEPLY.
If you've never tried it, you can start right now.
Just take a deep breath in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts and then release it for 4 counts. Repeat this five times and see how you feel. For me it is immediately calming and relaxing. It can take me from agitated and stressed to calm and relaxed in a matter of minutes. It is like a soothing tonic for the body and mind and the best part is you can do it anywhere. I found an article that sums the benefits of deep breathing, and you can read it by clicking HERE if you're interested.
There are also dozens of other breathing techniques that have a beneficial impact on our overall health and you can find articles and videos online that will guide you through the process.
Cultivating a practice of stillness in my busy life was essential in my journey to making our home a sanctuary for my family and me. I found that I am able to show up for those I love with a calmer mind and a more peaceful heart, and that is always a good thing.
I hope this motivates you to look for moments of quiet or calm in your life and see if it impacts your overall sense of peace and well being. I would love to hear about your experiences and any techniques that you use! Please share in the comments below!
Have a beautiful day,