Our modern, technology-driven lifestyles are so fast-paced that finding stillness these days requires making a conscious active effort. It has gotten to the point that we practically have to pencil in "stillness" in our agenda books (or, rather set up a message alert on our smartphones to remind us to find stillness...hmm, actually not such a bad idea, is it?).
And, let's say that we create the time for stillness; well, what do we do with that time? We have gotten so accustomed to running from one task or appointment to another, that we often don't even know what to do with stillness once we've created it. In fact, taking these calculated pauses in our day can feel uncomfortable. It can be challenging to slip into stillness. Often, when seeking stillness, thoughts may arise such as, "Well, I could sit here in 'stillness,' or I could cross off three more things from my to-do list!" But, if we sit with the practice, those thoughts slowly start to fade away and stillness naturally arises.
The benefits of finding stillness in the spaces of our lives are innumerable. Finding stillness gives us the opportunity to process our daily experiences. It allows us to find more comfort with our selves and all of our inner most soul experiences. We do this in our yoga classes when we find savasana pose. We close every yoga asana session with savasana in order to give our bodies the chance to rest, restore, and assimilate all the benefits of our physical practice. It is similarly important then that we take time in the midst of our daily activities to also pause, rest and restore.
Finding these moments of stillness and rest is not simply an indulgence, rather it is a necessity. Science has recently shown that during periods of sleep, accumulated byproducts to our neuronal cellular metabolism (byproducts of brain cell metabolism) are essentially flushed out of our system. When our body does not get the sleep or rest that it needs, these byproducts accumulate and are thought to lead to neurodegeneration (breakdown of our nervous system, which can show up in our daily lives as irritability, anxiety, and obesity).[i]
So, now that we know the importance of finding stillness, how do we do it? Well, for one thing, finding stillness does not mean sitting on the couch watching tv or surfing the net, which actually creates additional undue stress to our nervous systems. Finding stillness means to really just sit with our self. Consider setting aside some time, maybe even just 5 minutes each day, to find stillness. Find a quiet, peaceful space in your home or in nature where you can sit comfortably. Then, allow your senses to take in your surroundings - all the sights, sounds, and smells, and allow yourself to simply settle into this awareness. Although these steps may sound rather simple, this is actually a very difficult practice even for seasoned yogi's. So, be patient with yourself, but do give it a try. It's well worth the effort.