In one of the corners of the world white puffs are sailing across the sky in the lazy afternoon sun. Elsewhere, a coffee shop is filled with soft jazz music and the aroma of fresh cinnamon buns. And in somebody’s living room there’s a fireplace cracking to the sound of raindrops dancing on the windowsill, and a cozy blanket on the sofa warming up a meditative space. All of the above are the perfect conditions for stillness.
So is our everyday rush to constantly do more a relic of the past yet? Well, it seems that since the beginning of the pandemic we have been collectively noticing more and more benefits of serenity, and for most of us, there is no going back to how things were before. Forced by nature to stop, we’ve been hit by the fullness of the day and how much wonder we used to miss on a regular basis. It’s possible to shift from the work-life to life work balance – who would have thought, right?
Our Cup of Tea
In the global crisis of 2020 (and beyond), we remained connected to one another thanks to technology. But we also learned what doomscrolling was ― the obsessive need to know what was going on, scrolling down the rabbit hole of negative news. We had to learn how to quickly manage our emotions rushing to the surface full speed ahead as both the reality around us and within us became confusing.
Apparently, somewhere on the career ladder, we forgot what it was like to slow down and enjoy the journey. We realized how much of what lived in our hearts and minds was hushed by everyday noise and swept under the rug instead of processed. As we slowly but surely emerge from the pandemic, we are back to our old challenges and obstacles. But we’re wiser now. We know we need to make room for growth inside ourselves in order to avoid panicking in the face of adversity.
In the ancient philosophy of Taoism, we learn about the notion of being and non-being, the yin and yang – opposite forces that cannot exist without each other. While the concept is complex and deeper than the oceans, what we want to focus on can be grasped relatively easily. Think of yourself as an empty teacup. While the tangible object – the cup – represents being, the emptiness inside it stands for non-being.
That is, if you want to pour delicious healthy tea into the teacup, it first needs to have inner space for it. How do we make ourselves empty for the brew? We start by being still. Where do we find stillness? In places, moments, rituals and routines, kindred spirits or intentional solitude, and in whatever makes us content.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
― Blaise Pascal
Clear As Day
As Ryan Holiday writes in his book Stillness Is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life, the concept of stillness is deeply embedded in our human traditions. The Buddhist called it upekkha, The Muslims aslama, The Hebrews hishtavut, The Greeks euthymia and hesychia, The Epicureans ataraxia, and The Christians aequanimitas. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the holy scriptures for Hinduism, speaks of samatvam — “evenness of mind — a peace that is ever the same.”
Stillness is one of those concepts that might be difficult to describe but you’ll know it when you feel it. It’s a state of steadiness and inner quietude that allows you to act without frenzy regardless of what’s happening around you. Filtering through the noise, it creates room for an ever-expanding sense of inner peace. It’s an inward journey of discovery, where the destination is stripped of all that’s inessential. In the still place deep within you, all your pieces fall into place and everything makes sense (eventually).
While at night we are as switched off as we can be, it’s the days that we need to control. Simplicity, that’s what stillness needs. Let us guide you through an entire day of bliss to help you reach that serenity deep within your being.
First Thing In the Morning
Stillness wakes up with you in the morning. It yawns and stretches its limbs inside of yours every day. As your dreams and nightly visions slowly turn into thoughts and perceptions, stillness purposely slows you down so you can enjoy these first minutes of the day mindfully and in tranquillity. Stillness cannot be rushed and in order for it to fully prepare you for what’s to come today, it needs your undivided attention.
Use the AM hours to meditate, journal, or go for a run in nature (remaining still while being active ― you heard that right). Attract stillness by enjoying your first cup of coffee in harmony with the reality around you – instead of opening social media or a news website, open the window and put your face towards the sun or inhale the freshness of pouring rain. What are the three things that you feel grateful for right now? Write them down, reflect a little. The AM stillness is how you win the rest of the day.
Beat the Clock
As you sit down at your desk to review your agenda, allow stillness a place in it, too. Whatever stressors lurk in between the lines of your to-do lists, face them with inner peace. The more frantic we get, the harder it becomes to perform our tasks on time, maintain focus, and be successful. If you feel a surge of unnecessary emotions, pause, take a deep breath, try to distance yourself from the source of turmoil.
Furthermore, stillness likes breaks. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that rest should be part of your professional schedule, too. A dying battery will only make you reach your goals later than you would with time off in between obligations. There is zero stillness in running yourself to the ground.
Take a walk in the middle of the day, daydream for a while, eat your lunch focusing on the quality of the food on your plate, and, for goodness sake, make your weekends sacred. No answering emails, no finalizing anything that can be finished on Monday, or violating your boundaries for the sake of the toxic hustle culture. Weekends are for friends, hobbies, and fun ― stillness means unplugging, and unplugging totally.
“Search your heart and see. The way to do is to be.”
― Lao Tzu
Last Thing before Bed
Good afternoon. If anything else fails, the nostalgic power of twilight should do the trick. This is when our minds naturally slow down, whether we like it or not. The world gets more quiet (unless you plan to attend a party), we unwind, empty our minds, and stillness thrives. We bathe in the beauty of the sunset, we let go of our troubles for the day, and we direct our remnant energy towards what gives us joy.
It’s important to end the day with an opportunity to notice how far we’ve come. What’s the point of success if we never take time to reflect on it? And if you failed today, you can do better tomorrow. But no matter what, stop in the evening. Process your day in a journal sipping camomile tea. Both will help you relax and introspect. Give your imagination some play time and read a fiction book. Do yoga. If stillness has a chance to fill your evenings to the brim, you’ll sleep better. And your dreams will be sweet.
Keep Calm and… Be Still
Stillness might be spiritual, holding us in awe of the depth of life. It might also be purely about untangling the knots in our minds and relaxing our bodies. Or, it can bloom in our flourishing and uninterrupted happiness of new adventures, fulfilling relationships, and making dreams come true. Let’s stop hushing our stillness, let’s embrace its magic like our ancestors in every culture used to do.
To be or not to be? Be still.