The Art of Being Still is something that modern life seems to have squeezed out of us. In the words of the poem ‘Leisure’ published in 1911 by W.H. Davies:
‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.’
Meditation and Mindfulness have become extremely popular tools for coping with stress, anxiety and even chronic pain. There have been a great many scientific studies into the benefits of both. Mindfulness is essentially paying attention to what you are doing rather than allowing your mind to worry, fret, or generally chatter away in the background.
You will get the most benefit if you find a method or style that you like and practice regularly. It is the practice that brings the long-term benefit. You can find classes locally or online or contact me for information on beginners’ courses or find my daily meditations at louisecardon.com/halcyon-daily-meditations
Breathing is also an important part of being still and forms the basis of many meditation and mindfulness techniques. When you are under stress you often breathe in a shallow way using only the top of your lungs and your neck, shoulder, and chest muscles. This leads to more tension and continued shallow breathing.
When you breathe fully and deeply, your rib cage expands to allow full function of the lungs and you really take in a good amount of air. This is how you get that life-giving oxygen into your bloodstream and clear out the carbon dioxide.
Just three deep breaths can calm you down and bring you back into balance. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, causing a relaxation response in your body.
To see how much expansion you can achieve on your rib cage, lie on your back on the floor and place your hands on your ribs with your fingers touching in the middle. As you breathe deeply you should see your fingers move away from each other. You should also see/feel movement of your lower abdomen, not just your chest.
Try repeating this exercise just once a day or when you feel particularly stressed.
Solitude is something that has been under-rated in the busy, hyper-connected society we now live in. People can contact you at any time of the day or night unless you turn your phone off, and it seems to be socially acceptable. When I was young if anyone phoned after 9pm it was considered impolite and only happened in an emergency.
Time alone is essential to reflect, plan and restore your mind, body and soul.
The Healing Power of Nature
Nature is calming and healing for all of us, it slows you down and gives you time and space to think. There have been countless studies demonstrating the benefit of spending time in Nature. We often take for granted the Natural World around us, we may live and work in the city and hardly see a tree from one week to the next.
A few years ago, I spent a week in Iceland, mainly out in the countryside, and I felt I was in a constant meditative state – totally calm.
Spending time in your garden, if you have one, taking a walk in the park or sitting at a local beauty spot are all beneficial to your wellbeing. Even bringing some flowers or plants into your home can have a calming and uplifting effect.
Take Time Offline
Being Offline from time to time is also a useful aid to finding more Serenity. We all spend a lot of time on the internet these days, whether for work or leisure or both. The internet is incredibly useful and mobile technology means you can communicate with the rest of the planet in ways we could only have dreamt about ten years ago. However, we also waste a lot of time in cyberspace.
The number of hours you spend in front of your computer screen or on your phone can have very real physical drawbacks such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury and tension in neck, back and shoulder muscles.
But you can also suffer psychological effects of excess internet time, tiredness, mood swings, addiction and obsession. These might stop you doing other things with your time, and distance you from your loved ones.
So try to be disciplined about your internet use, maybe even have a day a week when you don’t constantly check your emails or Facebook. We survived for thousands of years without knowing the intimate details of our family and friend’s daily lives on a minute-by-minute basis.
“True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.” ~Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
This Might Help
I do have a daily meditation subscription service, Halcyon Daily Meditations, which has live meditations Monday to Friday in a private Facebook group with archive recordings at weekends. Find out more at louisecardon.com/halcyon-daily-meditations