Becoming still will be a rather frightening experience at first. You may find that you lack the ability and that you struggle. You may feel like a child learning to walk and you are going to stumble.
I imagine being unable to be still is rather like losing or never having had the ability to speak or to walk. If you have ever experienced this or read about someone who has (The Day My Brain Exploded by Asjok Rajamani or Helen Keller’s biography), you will know that to relearn what came so naturally and what we took so for granted, is a slow and painful process.
Now it seems to me that somewhere in our busy lives we have decided that anything not related to our work is unimportant and should be set aside until it actually becomes important or serious. Thus we neglect any abilities, talents and skills – our “softer skills”– not directly needed to get our jobs done. Our ability to be still, to rest or just be is one of those that wastes away. Gradually we become less and less able to practise this skill if we do not consciously make an effort to do so.
Just as a muscle that is not used becomes weaker or atrophies, so our ability to become still atrophies, and like a weak muscle that may fail at a crucial moment when we really need it, so too our ability to become still may fail when we really need it.
Remember the advice of your maths teacher when you scored badly in your algebra test. Do your homework and practise your maths by doing your exercises. Or that of your physio after you had hurt your knee and were on crutches for some time. He or she gave you exercises to make the muscles around your knee strong again. The same goes for being still.
Remember too that no injury heals immediately and no lapse in ability is restored quickly. Start small. Take a 15-minute break from your desk and go outside. Find a quiet place somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. If you are at work and the quietest place is the restroom, that’s OK too. Set your phone alarm for 3 minutes and choose a soft beep – not a loud tone that may give you a fright. Sit comfortably with your hands on your knees. Focus your eyes just over your nose on a point somewhere in front of you on the ground. Now focus your attention to just being still, becoming aware of you sitting in that chair. Just sitting. Remind yourself that just sitting and being still is important too. Breathe normally. Be aware of any thoughts that pop into your head and let them go.
Don’t be harsh and judge yourself for the random thoughts that occur. You are relearning how to be still.
Do this for 3 minutes. Then take a 1-minute break: allow your mind to wander, fidget, scratch any itches and look around. Then be still for another 3 minutes, taking a 1-minute break between each until you reach 15 minutes. Then go about your normal business. Do this, say, once a day for a month. And then gradually increase the time.
[Main image credit: free stock photo 123RF.com]