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Our society has become one of speed. “Being busy” is our natural state and “productivity” our highest virtue. We are always racing from the one task to the next. Fortunately, however, more and more people are waking up to the effects of our excessive busyness. And there is definitely a need for more  stillness in our lives.

For some reason we have come to associate “non-doing” with laziness so that when we do take a break we are often filled with guilt. It is as if there is an inner boss sitting on our shoulders asking if there isn’t something we should be doing. To have some time for ourselves has become frowned upon. Taking time off is often seen as being lazy and not serious about one’s job. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, thinks quite the opposite: “Being busy is a sure sign of laziness: lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

How I interpret this is that it is much easier just to “go with the flow”: simply to take on what comes our way without much consideration and just fall in with the chaos of things. It is easier to be directed by others, than to be aware, reflect on what we are doing and take control of our own lives. To do this, we need to snap out of autopilot, escape from the state of constant doing, and start to pay attention to why, what and how we are doing things.

More and more products and services are being developed to help people approach their days with more awareness and mindfulness. One of these is an application for Androids or iPhones called Calm.com. I recently did a meditation called “Being in the Here and Now”. As I pressed play, the soothing voice of Maggie Richards greeted me: “For many of us putting a pause on productivity is difficult. We love to feel that we are getting somewhere and accomplishing things. We have become addicted to visible progress . . .The daily rush against the clock creates the illusion that the more we do and the more we accomplish is what drives our success. This is a misinformed and counter-intuitive belief. As we fill up every moment, we leave no space to observe what is going on in our minds and bodies. No opportunity for clarity and insight. No room for rest, recovery or healing. Or for creativity and for new ideas to be born . . .There is tremendous value in a state of stillness and non-doing.”

Without the pauses that rest bars bring in music, it will just be a jumble of notes and noise. Without the commas and full stops in a piece of writing, all ideas will flow into each other and become random words on a page. Pauses help produce beauty and meaning in things. Therefore our understanding of success should not only focus on productivity, but should value stillness and the role it plays in our overall wellbeing.

Are you allowing enough time in your life to include small breaks from activity?

  • Make a list of the things you really enjoy doing. When last did you do some of these? Make a date.
  • Practise making it a habit to be still for short periods throughout your day. Calm.com gives you the option of meditating for 2, 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
  • Concentrate on really being in the moment when you take a holiday or break. Switch off your phone. Put away your computer. Just focus on relaxing.

[Main image credit: Royalty free stock photos 123RF.com/Andrea de Martin]

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