As with all of life in its complexity there is never one way of seeing things. Existence has a dual nature, holding birth and death, day and night, motion and stillness, effortlessly in paradox. If movement is essential for our vitality, stillness is even more so for our sanity. Of the two sides of the metaphorical coin, in-action is harder to cultivate, less encouraged, and almost always mis-understood. For these reasons stillness is undervalued in our culture and we do not reap the benefits available were we to integrate it effectively into our often manic lives.
Congratulations for making it this far into my wellbeing editorial. It suggests that you are willing to take a few minutes from your hectic schedule to read about stillness. I invite you now to take it a step further by experiencing stillness. Close your eyes, take three long, slow, gentle breaths, in and out through your nose, and relax… How do you feel?
Stillness is the absence of movement. If you are moving, talking, thinking, you are not still. You may now be wondering, if this is the case am I only still in deep sleep? That could be correct as there are levels to stillness. Let’s touch on the physical stillness of body and speech, leaving the stilling of thoughts for another time.
Our world hit overdrive a few hundred years ago during the industrial age. Prior to large scale factories and time clocks it was most unusual to be paid by the hour. People were paid for a day’s work or a specific task, it took what it took. Then came machines, factories, deadlines, production, scale, and with it the 8, 10, 12, 14 hour work day. Incentive was given to those who worked longer hours – in the form of hourly pay. If you worked more you’d make more money, a wonderful little trap. No longer was taking a two hour lunchbreak acceptable, nor was taking most of winter off to relax and recover. In this new world of productivity, the god was motion; keep on moving, the wheels of industry must turn.
We are suffering from a post-industrial hangover, and it’s not much fun. Hence if you say to someone that what you’d rather do than be busy is to appreciate some quiet time to reflect on life; consider your purpose, dream, think creatively, explore the inner workings of your own consciousness and generally not do a whole lot of ‘work’, you’ll tend to find little encouragement from friends, family and employer. They just don’t get it. In some ways it’s just that we’ve got short memories. For millennia humanity has praised, uplifted and idolised the people who did exactly this. The great spiritual masters, sages, thinkers, philosophers, artists, poets, and mythical heroes of our past all spent vast amounts of time in stillness and silence. There is no other way to gain the level of insight they left us. History has verified stillness in great detail, it’s how many of our greatest learnings and benedictions have come to light.
Not everything in life can be taught, some can only be experienced directly. The best things are like this. Slowing down, sitting still, closing your mouth and switching off the device is something you will have to try for yourself to reap the benefits. Start slow, it can be uncomfortable for the modern human. There in lies the challenge – 20 mins a day, do nothing. Are you up for it?