A Moment of Stillness

In The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life, Martha Beck writes that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” When we speak of stillness, this is exactly what we mean. Doing nothing. Not meditation, or prayer, or brainstorming, or problem-solving, only stillness. The power of a true moment of stillness with no pressure or expectation beyond being is a transformational opportunity.

Make time for stillness

In our busy, hectic lives, it is not enough to practice stillness when free time becomes available, you have to carve time out on purpose. Many people enjoy stillness in the morning, as a way to start the day off refreshed and centred. Others prefer to sit still for ten or fifteen minutes before bed time, relaxing the mind and body for sleep. Whatever time you choose, carve it out and commit to it. Soon enough, you’ll begin to appreciate and look forward to this time. Fifteen minutes is usually the ideal length of time to quiet your mind.

Find the right location

You can find a moment of stillness anywhere – on your couch, on the floor of your bedroom, in your backyard, sitting on a dock with your legs dangling in the water, or in a room/corner dedicated entirely to these moments. The most important thing is that you find a quiet place where you can practice stillness without interruption.

Set the mood

You can set the mood by putting on relaxing music, ocean sounds, or even white noise. Light candles or incense, and lower the lights. If you prefer no noise or mood lighting at all, that is fine too – create your moment of stillness, don’t replicate someone else’s.

Find physical relaxation

Sit down, find a comfortable position, and close your eyes. Relax your body from your face all the way down to your toes. Feel relaxation moving through you like a wave, as you relax your cheeks, lips, neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, core, legs, and toes. If you have trouble keeping your entire body still, consider adopting a mindless repetitive motion like rocking.

Clear your mind

Especially if you are just beginning to practice stillness this is often the hardest part. Your body may be still, but your mind is firing with different thoughts, worries, desires, fantasies, and concerns. Start with just ten seconds. Ten seconds of thinking nothing at all. If thoughts do pop up, notice them, observe them, without passing any judgement or attempting to understand them further. Observe the thought and let it pass. Increase your length of stillness over multiple sessions until you reach fifteen minutes of a clear and quiet mind. Do not rue over the past or fret about the future, just be present.

“Learn to return”

Think about your most peaceful, still moment in life. Perhaps it was achieved in one of these sessions, or maybe it is a moment in life like an experience with your partner, fond memory with your child, or precious moment of solitude. Practice recalling this moment and reawakening the feeling of peace and serenity. Mark this memory location as your place of peace you can return to at any time to recentre yourself.

You may also find it helpful to discuss constructive methods of finding stillness with an Ottawa therapist.