5 Powerful, Timeless Ways to Wind Down and Be Still
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Stillness is not a luxury, it’s a necessity
Stillness is a lost art.
Most of us don’t remember what it’s like to be still. It’s when the world comes to a halt, your creativity rises, and your soul flourishes.
With the always-on, hustle-to-death mentality, we’ve forgotten why and how to cultivate stillness in our lives.
It’s ironic since our best ideas come to us when we’re still. When you’re taking a shower, going out for a walk or standing in a queue.
Yet, we do our best to avoid these moments, only because they bring boredom back into our lives. When we compare it to the myriad of distractions available to us on our fingertips, being still seems like a joke.
For most people, stillness is only a philosophical idea, not a practical tool for achievement. And that’s where we all are mistaken.
Don’t fret. I’m not blaming you. It’s always been difficult. Calming the mind down, quieting the turmoil within us and introspection is not easy.
But this stillness can be yours. With little practice, you can reclaim what you’ve lost.
Here are a few tips from Ryan Holiday’s Stillness Is The Key to help you find and cherish that stillness today.
Shut Down the Firehose of Information
Distractions have become so pervasive in the digital age that we’ve come to accept them as normal. But we can escape their grip and free our minds — Mark Manson
The more garbage you consume, the more garbage you produce. The Internet as a whole as evolved into a big, interrupting machine.
From emails to social media to notifications, it has bombarded us with inputs 24/7.
When you have a wealth of information thrown at you, you’re not equipped to make better decisions. In fact, you cannot make any decision at all. The inflow exhausts you and steals your energy away.
To cultivate stillness, we need to be okay with letting extraneous things pass. There’s no benefit in ‘staying on top of things’ including politics, celebrity scandals, wars, and the new TV shows.
You have to be in charge of your own attention diet.
Uninstall social media from your phone
Unfollow people who you no longer need to follow
Enable Do Not Disturb on your phone using whitelists
Close the door, literally or figuratively, to all interruptions
Replace all the lost time with a deepened focus on your craft. To learn more. To become more. Or to just be still.
Where All Great Ideas Come From
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking — Friedrich Nietzsche
Who does not like taking a walk? You? Perhaps you should reconsider.
Stillness is not the cessation of movement.
Moving slowly, as if kissing the earth with your feet, is also an experience of deep stillness.
The Buddhists have a common practice of ‘walking meditation.’ They believe that the movement after a long meditation can put you in a different state of mindfulness.
Dorothy Day first felt a strong presence of God in her life which nudged her to the path of sainthood. Indeed, my spiritual teachers advise slow movement through nature as a great way to bathe in the beauty and develop devotion for God.
It’s fascinating how something as simple as moving your feet can be so enlightening.
It is not about burning calories or tracking your steps on Fitbit. It’s about being present. Fully immersed in the Now.
Ponder the truths of the Universe, if you will. Reflect on the big questions. Become unreachable. Make your walk a sacred experience, even if it’s for fifteen minutes.
Feel there’s something bigger at play. And get away from your daily stresses. If you’ve limited your inputs already, this should be easy for you.
Don’t worry, it’s not all about spiritual and mental clarity. It has tons of scientific benefits. Apart from a release of endorphins, it increases the supply of blood to the brain and heightens creative thinking. Plus, the novel stimuli that you get through nature calms you to get into Flow when you get back to work
Jack Dorsey walks every morning to his office after meditating for an hour.
William Wordsworth walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime.
You should too.
A Place to Vent Your Emotions and Sharpen Thinking
In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself — Susan Sontag
Anne Frank found her strength to survive the Nazis in her journal. In her first entry on June 12, 1942, she wrote, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you’ll be a great source of comfort and support.”
Patrick Grove took five companies public using his unique style of journalling.
One of my favorite Stoic philosophers, Seneca, wrote in his journal after his wife went to sleep. “I examine my day entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by,” he said.
There’s no doubt about why patients suffering from depression and traumatic experiences are told to write in a journal.
That’s what a journal is — a friend to the writer. It isn’t for the reader.
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, wasn’t supposed to be read by the world. It was his way to reflect improve himself — but thank god we can read it — for it is a strong pillar of Stoic philosophy which has stood the test of time hundreds of years later.
I had a love-hate relationship with journaling. I started, and then I stopped. I wanted to find the best system. But I realized such a system does not exist.
The only system worth following is your system — write the way you like.
No one has to read it. If you don’t like it, throw it away.
Just take a pen and paper, and write whatever you want. You can tackle the biggest questions of your life, or you can just list the things you’re grateful for.
Start anywhere, but start today.
What Can You Do Without?
So it is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep with greater toil — Seneca
Think about what Seneca is trying to say.
When you buy an extra car you don’t need it, you’re not only wasting money but you’re wasting your life. You worked hard in the first place to afford that car. Then you’ll have to work even harder to sustain the car — fuel, insurance, maintenance, and whatnot.
That is what we call golden handcuffs. Millennials who buy big houses, fancy watches, sports cars, and swimming pools are actually adding a link to the chains that trap them.
Because once you acquire these things, you’re trapped into working harder to maintain them. If tomorrow you realize that your passion lies in something completely different, you cannot start anew. You need a high income to maintain your lifestyle.
And thus you’re stuck for life unless you get rid of your stuff.
The stillness that comes with not having it is better than the fear of losing it.
Question every item you own and see if you can live without it. If you don’t, you’ll be enslaved by the riches you acquire.
The Interest You Have to Pay On Death
“Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.” — Arthur Schopenhauer
Sacrificing sleep for work is not a good bargain.
Less self-control, mood swings, lower willpower, poor concentration, and fatal diseases all come from a lack of sleep.
Despite the plenitude of research on the subject, the average American sleeps around 6 hours.
People who say that they’ll sleep when they’re dead are not heroes to admire. They’re workaholics to feel sorry for.
The stillness and calmness that comes from a good night’s sleep are irreplaceable. It leads to better conversations, relationships, productivity, and life satisfaction.
To summarize, here are the five ways you can bring back stillness in your lives:
Limit your inputs; remove all extraneous matters and distractions
Take a walk and let your mind wander
Journal to regulate your emotions and sharpen your thinking
Declutter your life and remove things you don’t need or want
Go to sleep; pay your interest on death and you’ll live longer
For more ideas check out Ryan’s book. It’s full of anecdotes for the points I mentioned as well as other esoteric topics you wouldn’t expect to read!
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