Moving Into StillnessFeb 08, 2021
Do you ever take time to just be still? If ever there was a time when stillness is a necessity, it is NOW!
I began to understand the idea of moving into stillness while going through my 200-hour yoga teacher training. One of my very favorite books ever, and definitely in the top 3 yoga books of all time for me is Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffman. It had such a tremendous impact on me that if I believed in external gurus, I would consider Erich to be mine. I know that I am my own guru, though, so I’ll just enjoy his book and his videos.
What does it even mean to MOVE into STILLNESS?? This one thing I love about yoga. It makes seemingly opposite concepts peacefully coexist. It removes duality. It helps you understand that can, in fact, be both happy and sad at the same time. I love embracing polarities and finding the way of the middle – tempering of extremes. We could all benefit from that, right?
Think about just how connected you are today. Yes, even in a pandemic, where all our social interaction has dramatically changed. We live in a hyper-connected world. People can almost always reach you by phone, and if you want, you can do a video conference from anywhere in the world. I’ve even seen people do video calls from their bed (and I hope never to see that again!). While we may long for the days of in-person meetings, parties, and yoga classes, we are still very easily reached. This is NOT stillness. In order to actually hear what our inner wisdom or soul or even God wants to say to us, we have to be quiet and listen. To be quiet, we have to be still. It is not possible to get still, while our minds are racing with to-do lists, busy social calendars, and the next place we have to be. We have to intentionally get still. I’ve talked about many ways to move into stillness, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. All these ways work if you use them. None of them work if you don’t. So, how will you get still?
For me, the hardest part of moving into stillness is not sitting still, although I have a friend who has lots of trouble with that one. For me, it’s about quieting the mind. I have always made lists. Part of that is because organization gives me some peace of mind. I had a long career that actually required a plan to do anything. I worked in process, program management, and IT. If you don’t make a plan and stick with it in those areas, nothing ever gets completed. Unfortunately, I let that need for organization drive my brain. I would wake up every morning with a list of things I wanted to get done today, and I would go to bed every night with a list of things I wanted to do tomorrow – including the list of things on today’s list that didn’t get done. The first time I went into a yoga class to observe for my YTT requirements, I literally wrote the entire time I “observed.” I made lists of all the poses, the verbal queueing to get into and out of the poses, the interactions and adjustments the instructor covered with the students. My list of lists was endless. It was absolutely exhausting, even though yoga is one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever personally done. Those lists in my head led to insomnia. It’s tough to go to sleep, when the lists are never-ending. I had to train my brain to stop making lists. THAT was a difficult task. I started by focusing on counting my breaths. Then, I began counting to 4 on each inhale and exhale. Then, I learned that if I counted to 4 on my inhale and counted to 6 on my exhale, my mind and body both started to relax and get sleepy. Eventually, I stopped counting and still relaxed. It is now rare for me to have trouble getting to sleep, although I still often use meditation apps for background noise. Now, if a list pops into my head as I lie in bed, I think to myself “That is a list. This is not a time for lists. It is time for sleep.” I do this without beating myself up about it, but just as a reminder to my mind and body that we are going to sleep.
We do something similar in my favorite yoga class. We start with a grounding meditation to become fully present (if you’re making lists, you’re not actually living in the here and now). One thing I love to hear in yoga is that “there’s nowhere else to be and nothing else to do.” That’s a trigger to my mind and body, just like my sleep reminder. You can find your own triggers, but it is important to become fully present, quiet, and still. Only then can you hear your inner voice, and then, you can decide whether or not to take action on what that voice tells you.
I now write the words “Stillness is your most powerful tool” at the top of each week’s pages in my planner. Yes, I still have lists, but now I understand when to act on the lists and when to acknowledge them and put them away. Be here now.
All my life, no matter what change I’ve experienced, I’ve been able to use journaling to remember who I am, begin to understand what I can learn from this change, and how my experience can help other people going through something similar. Get my free prompts, “Journaling for Answers,” and start finding your own answers within.
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