In years past, I would hear different teachers in the arena of health, wellness and spirituality talk about the need for stillness or meditation in our lives. I rarely listened because the thought of sitting still and meditating sounded impossible.
It feels impossible because my mind races, constantly. I believe it is both a weakness and a strength of mine.
It’s a strength because I can think quickly, I can read situations and people and I can make decisions quickly. It makes me adaptable in different situations and is satisfying when I can perform high functioning and very demanding tasks that require extreme focus.
It’s a weakness because when my thoughts wander and my focus shifts, the momentum of my negative thinking greatly impacts my mood and can tank an otherwise lovely day.
What we need to realize about thoughts, is that they help create our moods; and our moods are what create our experience. Since we know that the experience of our reality is impacted by our moods— shouldn’t our focus be on maintaining a good mood?
If we are always managing our thoughts and avoiding unwanted thoughts at all costs to maintain a happy, good feeling mood, we may create a good feeling life experience— but we are putting an extreme amount of pressure on ourselves to maintain perfection.
Sometimes we need to react, sometimes we need to get into the trenches of our pain and others’ pain and hold space for it. I believe that your best is good enough. We can do our best to think positive, try to observe more, react less— but of course there are limits to this. Compassion and empathy for ourselves and others is what makes us a human being.
If the momentum of our negative or unpleasant thoughts becomes a runaway train— our job is not to stand on the tracks, hoping that we can think enough happy thoughts to avoid the train running us down.
Instead, our job is to simply find some stillness. Whether that means a two-minute guided breathing exercise on our phones or putting on a pair of hiking shoes and taking a nature walk. Maybe it means getting under the covers and turning on our favorite show that makes us laugh.
Whatever we choose to do, remember that finding stillness helps us to slow down or stop thought, so momentum can subside and life can become pleasant again.
Many of us operate under the false premise that stillness meant an intensive sitting meditation where all thought stops. The expectation of this is akin to telling someone who has never run a day in their lives to compete in a marathon. Instead of forcing ourselves into a practice that takes years of focus and discipline, small steps in the meanwhile are just as effective and helpful.
This is why for me, running, yoga, hiking, cleaning— have all become great exercise, but the relief I get from them is less about the physical symptoms, but much more to do with the feelings of well-being, stillness and satisfaction that arise.
Stillness does not mean you have the be physically still. It's a state of mind, where your brain, or the engine of your consciousness, can get into a space where focus shifts into the now, into the present moment where thoughts can slow down, and the mind can take a breath.
Do your best to create a life experience that feels good, but when the negative thoughts and moods come— don’t fight them. There’s lessons to be learned, space to be held, and when it gets to be too much— remember, stillness is your friend.