Practicing the Discipline of Stillness
Breathe in. Breathe out.
The steady rhythm of my breath grounded me to the cadence of my feet hitting the ground as I hit mile 3 on my run along the Chicago lake path. As the sun began to spill the first beams of daybreak over the skyscrapers in front of me, I was fully in the moment. There was no music and no running partner. Just my breathing, my heartbeat, the chill of the morning air, my arms swinging back and forth. My mind was still, focused, and at peace.
Stillness can be defined as calmness, tranquility, and restfulness. Some definitions use the words “silence” or “inactivity,” but those don’t make sense for everyone.
For me, the repetitive motion of running keeps my body active, but focuses my senses on the present, causing my mind to be still. In my experience, mental stillness is a harder discipline to master than physical stillness. And sometimes, you have to be physically active to achieve stillness of the mind.
Benefits of Stillness
Stillness brings rejuvenation, joy in the ordinary, and beautiful moments of reflection. Each time I leave a moment of stillness, I feel happy and refreshed. I’ve left the feelings of overwhelm, stress, and concern behind. It’s not that circumstances have changed, but by recentering myself in the moment, I’ve created space for awareness, clarity, and action. I’ve deprioritized those negative feelings so that I can focus on efficient problem solving and planning. Some of my best work ideas have come to me on a run, in those moments of stillness! The practice of stillness benefits our whole lives, and is a helpful step towards achieving enduring success.
“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”Hermann Hesse
Trading In Chaos For Stillness
The benefits of stillness are numerous, and worth the effort of discipling your mind and body to help you achieve those moments of present focus. But what if you just can’t be still?
From the time I was a little girl, my life was filled with chaos. Is dad going to be loving-dad or violent-dad today? Is mom going to be here, or not? When will I be ripped from this new school?
As I got older, I created my own chaos because I was comfortable with it. A life of drugs is ALL chaos . . . but even through my recovery, I still chose the camouflage comfort of chaos, even in the seemingly harmless activities like over-committing myself to social invitations, neverending to-do lists, and working nonstop.
There is a camouflaged comfort in chaos when you haven’t experienced the beauty and perfection of the moment through stillness. When you finally experience it, the contrast is powerful. It will take work, but it’s worth striving for. The trick is to find your stillness zone.
Finding Your Stillness Zone
Have you seen the movie Soul? Without going into the plot too much, it’s a story of a pianist (Joe) who finally gets his big break as a jazz musician. There is a scene early on in the movie where Joe sits down at an audition and begins to play with a jazz band. The band begins to play without giving him direction, so he improvises. After just a few measures, his eyes close. A few bars later, everything fades out except for Joe and his piano. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the other musicians, the other sounds all fade into nothingness as he plays his beautiful music from the heart. When he’s done, he slowly opens his eyes and everything comes back into focus. With a shocked look on his face, as everyone stares at him in silence, he says, “Ah, sorry, I zoned out a little bit there.”
I LOVE this scene! It helps us visualize what stillness can look and feel like. For Joe, he found stillness in his jazz music. For me, I find stillness in running. But music and running isn’t for everyone.
Do you know how to find your stillness zone?
Some popular ways people find stillness include:
- Scripture study
- Creating art (drawing, painting, sculpting)
- Crocheting or sewing
- Crafting or woodworking
- Baking or cooking
- Lifting weights
- Horseback riding
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive. If you aren’t sure where you can find stillness for yourself, start experimenting! You don’t have to force something that doesn’t work for you. Don’t run if you aren’t a runner. Don’t pick up an instrument if you hate every second of it. Find the activities and places that feel natural to you and create moments where you can open yourself up to stillness.
As you find little hints of stillness, be aware of them and create more of them when you can. Leverage them when you see them, and replicate them more and more. With intention and practice, you’ll be more comfortable in stillness, and be able to remain still longer.
A Long Term Discipline
I no longer run the long distances that I used to, but I often think back to those still moments when I was utterly overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings, and my life. Finding those still moments now is more challenging, and to be honest I’m not very good at it. As I juggle work, motherhood, my marriage, and nurturing community, it’s hard to slow down my physical body, let alone my mind.
Stillness is something I’m committing to embrace more fully this year, and I hope you’ll join me.
According to the American Psychological Association, 56% of adults ages 18 to 34 feel their stress is completely overwhelming most days. Adults ages 35 to 44 aren’t far behind, at 48%. If you’d like to inspire your team to embrace stillness and reap the personal and professional benefits that come alongside achieving enduring success, book me for your next team meeting or conference.
About Trish Kendall
Trish Kendall, an expert in creating enduring success, is proof that anyone can transform their life and become the most successful person they know!
Inspiring people around the world, and providing a pathway to enduring success, Trish brings candid stories, humor in the face of true hardship, simple lessons, compassion and love to all her speaking engagements. Follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook and sign up for her newsletter for regular inspiration and wisdom.
If you’re ready to book Trish as your next keynote speaker or want to learn more about her story and message, please reach out.
“I’m inspired by your passion to effect change and confident that you will. You were truly amazing tonight. Truly. Amazing.”
Always love how your blogs hit me right where I am at! Keep doing what you do!