7 Simple, Powerful Ways to Still Your Mind, Body, and Soul
Stillness is a lost art.
Most of us don’t remember what it’s like to be still. I’m talking about the feeling 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. When is the last time you had a great idea?
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.
Because for most people, stillness sounds perfect only as a philosophical idea, not as a practical tool for achievement. And that’s where they’re 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 has been taken away from you.
Here are my favorite pragmatic tips from [Stillness Is The Key](https://www.amazon.com/Stillness-Key-Ryan-Holiday/dp/0525538585/) to help you find and cherish that stillness today.
Limit Your Inputs
The mind has a very simple operating system. The more garbage you take in, the more garbage you produce.
The Internet as a whole as evolved into a big, garbage-producing, interrupting machine. From emails to social media to notifications, it has bombarded us with inputs 24/7/365.
When you have a wealth of information thrown at you, you can’t make sane decisions. In fact, you cannot make any decision at all. The sheer plenitude of information is paralyzing.
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 show.
You have to be in charge of your own attention diet.
Here are a few things I’ve done to limit my inputs:
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
For a detailed guide to making your devices distraction-free, refer to this post. I’ve laid down all focus tools in one place.
Once you’re done with it, replace all the lost time with a deepened focus on your craft. To learn more. To become more. Or to just be still.
Take a Walk
Who does not like taking a walk? You? Maybe you should reconsider.
Contrary to what you might think, stillness is not about sitting still. In other words, it’s not the cessation of movement.
If you amble as if you’re kissing the earth with your feet, you’ll experience 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. I can attest from experience.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic has forced me to stay indoors, I’ve realized the importance of scheduling a daily walk. Even if I can’t block time to walk, I take almost all my calls walking in the park with bare feet.
Dorothy Day first felt a strong presence of God in her life which nudged her to the path of sainthood. Indeed, my 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 with a smartwatch. It’s about being present and consumed 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 blood supply to the brain and heightens creative thinking. Plus, the novel stimuli 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.
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 used to journal after his wife had gone 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 wrote.
There’s no doubt as to 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’s a strong pillar of Stoic philosophy which has stood the test of time hundreds of years later.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with journaling. I started, and then I stopped.
It went on forever until I realized that there’s no right way. There’s just your way.
I use my journalling practice, albeit a short one, to generate ideas and take time to think about crucial things that otherwise drift away from my consciousness.
No one has to read it. If you like, throw it after you write it — I throw out 95% of the ideas I generate.
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 now.
Solitude and Silence
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ― Henry David Thoreau
There’s one thing common amongst luminaries in diverse fields — solitude. They spend a significant amount of time away from the distractions and disturbances of the world.
Solitude is when you can hear your own voice. It’s difficult to hear your own voice in a myriad of other voices which are always louder than your own.
The importance of solitude in my life wasn’t clear until a few months ago. As the world is spending a lot of time indoors in 2020, I too got the opportunity to be with my thoughts for a long time.
To say the least, it has been the source of great ideas and valuable self-awareness through honest introspection.
Though most people think otherwise, there’s a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is perceived isolation. Solitude is when you isolate yourself by choice — and this can be therapeutic.
Perhaps the greatest argument for solitude is its ability to get you out of context. Being clearheaded is difficult when you’re consumed in the happenings around you. Too much information leads to paralysis, not decisions — this is why lawyers usually bury each other in paperwork.
By stepping back, you take the view from above and see things that you otherwise didn’t.
It’s ironic that solitude, while more important than ever, is promptly getting off our priorities. Living a life of meaning requires inner exploration, something that only solitude can provide.
It might take some time for you to ease in with yourself but once you do, it’ll be the best relationship you ever have, i.e, the relationship with yourself.
Accept a Higher Power
The second step of the 12-step addiction recovery program says, “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is one of the most important steps because addiction is not only a psychological problem but also a spiritual one.
It is also not a coincidence that saints and sages of all religions have a higher power in which they believe. The reason is simple — if you believe there isn’t something bigger than you in this world, how can you ever grow? If you think humans are at the peak of their existence, there’s nothing for you to look forward to.
Accepting this truth has been the single most important thing I’ve done in the past year. It has helped me stick to my meditation practice to the point of meditating an hour, twice a day.
Even more significant is the belief that everything is controlled or at least happens at the behest of a higher power. I’m not saying there’s a God sitting above controlling each of our lives.
Rather, I mean everything happens in tandem with Nature as Stoics would agree. And when you live in tune with that presence, whatever name you decide to give it, it gives you deep peace.
As the addicts need to believe in a higher power to give them the strength to restore sanity, we all need such consolation regardless of our life situation.
There’s no situation that cannot be improved when you take a step back, realize that something bigger is at play, and with this realization, shed all your fears.
Once you surrender to this flow, life becomes much better. More importantly, it becomes still.
“The gentleman makes things his servants. The petty man is servant to things.” — Xunzi
Life will be miserable if you spend it working hard to acquire stuff and then working even harder to keep it.
In the past six months, I’ve developed a weird love of throwing things out, being organized and minimalistic (often to the point of obsession).
Each purchase in your life comes with costs apart from money. In fact, the cost of an item is the amount of life you exchange for it.
I realized this when I received gifts from friends and family. Take for instance the aroma lamp I got as a gift on my birthday. Even though I didn’t spend money on it, I still had to put the oils and light the candle every day, which was tiring.
When you buy your dream house, you have to worry about insurance, repairs, maintenance, management, and a hundred other things.
The same is the case with your car, clothes, shoes, showpieces, paintings, the sofa you never sit on, the table you never eat on, etc.
Each item takes a little bit of life out of you.
Even sadder is the fact that we think we can’t live without our possessions. That is when our possessions enslave us. We can’t pursue our dreams because we have to pay a mortgage.
It’s as clear as day — things often subtract more than they add.
And so it is only imperative that you get rid of them. When you’re free from the fear of losing or breaking things, you can finally think about more important things in life.
And again, with that, comes deep stillness. Why else do you think people are selling their possessions and traveling the world on a backpack?
Invest your energy in values like love, compassion, kindness, spiritual development, and mastering your craft. Everything else is commentary.
“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
No one could’ve said it better. Often people say they’ll sleep when they die. Well, they apparently don’t realize then, that their time to sleep forever, will come soon.
Sacrificing your sleep for your work is not a good bargain in any sense.
Sleep is the biggest nootropic. Before you take on any kind of “personal development” habit, it’s imperative for you to fix your sleep.
Even losing an extra hour of sleep can lower your cognition, make you irritable, and mostly, less happy.
I’m still astonished to see people not realize the importance of something to basic.
You cannot overstate the importance of sleep. I’m frugal in most areas of my life but when it comes to sleep, I invest in it — by way of getting sleep trackers, sleep masks, blue-ligh blockers, etc — without thinking twice.
I’ve also stopped being guilty of taking afternoon naps, and going to bed early on days I feel like.
Trust me, by sleeping as much as you need, you’re not taxing your productivity, you’re investing in it.
The stillness you experience after a good night’s sleep is uncomparable. How did you feel when you woke up this morning before checking your phone? That’s the feeling you want to recreate throughout your day
Here are the seven practical ways to cultivate stillness in your life:
Limit your inputs.
Take a walk.
Embrace solitude and silence.
Accept a higher power; surrender.
Declutter; get rid of stuff that shackles you.
Go to sleep.
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