“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” —Hermann Hesse
Life can often feel like an act of survival. It’s a hyper-connected, multi-tasking, texting-tweeting-downdogging-180-degree-latte kind of world, and it’s easy to get so caught up in the juggle that we forget we can simply put down the balls and breathe. Simply stopping the motion periodically provides us with an opportunity to redirect our attention inward, shifting the focus back to ourselves. Developing a stillness practice helps us tune in to our inner voice, so that we may remember who we are and reconnect with our own personal power.
Here are five practices to cultivate stillness in your busy life:
Begin each day by sitting in silence for seven minutes. Take advantage of the moments in the morning when outside stimulation is at a minimum and your mind is clearest. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and slow your breath. Pause at the top of each inhalation and at the bottom of each exhalation, creating a moment of stillness. This sets a baseline for inner peace and connectedness, which we can return to throughout the day.
2. Alarming Presence
Set an alarm to go off four times during the day (for example: 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm). Whenever the alarm sounds, bring your focus to what you are doing. Take a mental inventory of your physical presence and articulate it something like this: Feet on the floor. Feet on the floor. Thighs on chair. Thighs on chair. Hands on keyboard. Hands on keyboard. Repeating each item twice gives your mind a moment to really become present to the simple mechanics of what you are doing and encourages the transfer of energy from the mind to the body.
3. Quiet on the Set
Sometimes I feel like my life is like a huge movie production with many people hustling around. It is noisy—figuratively and literally. Take steps to reduce the noise level in your day. Turn down the music, turn off text and email alerts, and stop talking! Silence is not the same as stillness; lowering the overall volume of your life will keep you from getting so over-stimulated that you spend the better part of your stillness practice recovering from auditory overload.
4. Dirty Feet
Chaos in our lives is almost always reflected in our physical energy. We get caught in our heads as we try to manage many things at once and regain some sort of order and control. Even at moments of critical stress, stepping outside and putting our feet in the dirt (grass or sand will do) has a calming effect by drawing the energy down through the chakra system. When someone we know is level-headed, we say they are “grounded.” Feeling connected to and supported by the Earth is a path to instant stillness.
5. Time-Out from Technology
Take one hour each day to be completely off-grid. Schedule this time at a regular hour, just like “Happy Hour.” This works not only to foster stillness in the moment, but also to counterbalance and recalibrate your participation in the chaos that can result from perpetual accessibility through multiple technology-enabled information streams.
As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Author of The Distraction Addiction, says, “It’s not about forsaking the digital life for ‘real life’; it’s a way to discover a richer life where your devices, your social world, and your rediscovered, unburdened self can coexist. Like any practice, you need to do it regularly, work past the hurdles and uncertainties, to see the benefits flower. And while you’re cultivating them, don’t worry about your phone or Facebook. They’ll be there when you get back.”