So far you have been prescribed daily doses of gratitude and movement. This week’s prescription is all about silence and stillness. It might seem odd since you recently received a prescription that told you to get up and move, that you are now being asked to practice being still and silent, but bear with me and you will soon see how the pieces all begin to fall into place.
We live in a very noisy world. For the most part, no matter where we go we are surrounded with noise and movement of all kinds. All of our senses are bombarded on a pretty constant basis with lights, noise, and motion which our incredible brains somehow process and make sense of in order for us to make informed choices. However, all of that input into our very sensory bodies can really make our brains feel a little overwhelmed and a bit overly noisy itself.
We also live lives where sensory overload is considered to be the norm — news, non-news, emails, texts, calls, chats are constantly demanding that we respond. We hear music in every store, we have television screens flashing in restaurants, we have signs demanding our attention and we almost constantly carry devices that beep, ping and have us on instant “notification”.
Someone, somewhere has decided that the rest of us need to be constantly connected to every “one”, every “thing” and every “event”. I am not sure just who made the decision for us or who set this as our norm. However, I do believe that each of us needs to do our own choosing by listening to the needs of our bodies physically, emotionally and spiritually. And I also believe that maybe, for many of us, it is time to say "No" loud and clear to a societal norm doesn't resonate with many of us.
I often find myself wondering what effect the constant, second by second, busy-ness has on my brain and my gut health. And I find that the constant demand for my attention is making me jump from one task to the next, and that I am often trying to do 2 or more tasks at once. When I get caught up in this mode of high alert, I certainly don’t feel relaxed and find myself getting less done and making more mistakes. If I don’t feel relaxed, chances are my stress level is just a bit on the rise. And I know all too well how an increased stress level adversely affects the health of my gut and brain and then manifests in food cravings, joint pain and sleepless nights.
Recent studies have shown that we really lose more than we gain with our constant multitasking. We actually burn more energy than we need to brainwise which decreases our ability to focus and complete a task well. And our constant need to “connect” with the virtual can really wreak havoc on our real relationships.
So what is the antidote to living in a society that wants to force a constant state of noise and busy-ness upon us? The answer lies in learning to cultivate your own personal practice of stillness and silence. Does just the thought of stillness and silence make you squirm a bit? Then that’s all the more reason to nurture the practice.
Your prescription this week is to embrace silence and stillness and to cultivate and nurture your personal practice in your daily life. There are many ways to approach this challenge. Below I offer you a place with which to start your journey.
Step 1 — Become aware of how many balls you juggle at once, how many interruptions you take as “normal” in the course of just a few minutes and how that constant frantic pace makes you feel physically and emotionally. Are you able to "disconnect" from devices even for a few moments? Or does not having your phone with you make you nervous or anxious? Do you always have the radio or television on even if you are not watching a show? Simply take anecdotal notes without passing judgement.
Step 2 — Intentionally choose to cultivate stillness and silence each day for just a few minutes. Here are some possible avenues for you to explore:
a. Daily Meditation — just 5 to 10 minutes a day can change your brain for the healthier. Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to get your brain to stop it’s constant chatter or to be able to tune out the world around you and just ‘be”? Then this is the path for you to try. Start slowly and work yourself up to longer and deeper meditations. If you can, try to practice meditation without technology other than perhaps some calming music. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, focus on each inhalation and exhalation of your breath and let all thoughts pass by. When you are able to still your mind and enjoy silence if only for a minute or two, you will benefit greatly and feel the “relief”. And trust me, the more you experience the silence and stillness, the more you will want to establish your practice.
b. Not sure if being still for 5 to 10 minutes is achievable right now? Then set aside time each day when you are completely disconnected from music, phone, watch, computer, television and even people. Start slowly with 15 minutes and work up to an hour. During that time, choose to focus on something that brings you inner peace — practice yoga or tai chi, take a long leisurely walk, read a poem or two, sit in the garden, doodle — Do you see where I am going with this? Embrace the silence and stillness of being completely absorbed in one very simple activity that requires only you, your brain and your body. No noise, no elaborate tools, no distractions. Instead allow the rhythm of the activity to fill your space, body and mind.
Step 3 — Take notice of how those periods of stillness and silence affect the rest of your day, your energy level, your outlook on life. Do you feel better able to focus, better able to be in the present, better able to actually listen to what someone is saying? Do you feel calmer, sleep better, crave less sweets?
Cultivating silence and stillness can help reduce stress and restore health. I hope you are inspired to begin your journey today.
In Health and Balance,