On Enjoying Stillness
Do you ever feel like there isn't enough time in the day to do what needs to be done?
Is it difficult for you to switch off your brain when you actually have time to rest?
Our world is moving so fast, and we feel like we have to stay in high gear in order to keep up. Physiologically-speaking, 'high gear' would be the equivalent of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the system that regulates the fight-or-flight response. Now, the fight-or-flight response gets a pretty bad rap these days, though it really does deserve some positive recognition. After all, this response is what has helped us as a human race survive through trying times. The problem lies in that the fight-or-flight response has become a sustained state of being because we don't let our guard down long enough to give our sympathetic nervous system a chance to down-regulate. This sounds tricky, but the down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, and subsequent activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the 'rest-and-digest' system), can be as simple as taking a few deep, slow breaths.
Life becomes a whole lot easier when we take a few minutes in our day to slow things down. When we make room in our day for some sort of stillness (this can be a 20-minute nap, listening to a guided meditation, deep breathing exercises, or anything that serves to slow down your mind and heart rate), we can return to our normal routine with a renewed sense of calm and mental acuity. Believe it or not, we will actually be more productive after slowing things down for a bit :)
Developing a practice of stillness during the day can also help improve our sleep. A practice of stillness is just that, practice! We get better at it the more we do it, and this will manifest in all areas of our lives, including our sleep patterns.
So, give yourself a little break. You deserve to look after yourself. Not only you, but everyone around you will benefit from your calm, centered, focused, more rested, and at-peace presence :)
Today (a poem by Mary Oliver)
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.
Here's what you can do right now.
A couple of my favorite sympathetic nervous system down-regulators:
Deepak Chopra's 'The Secret of Healing' meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uin2q_hEHlU
Dr. Andrew Weil's '4-7-8 Breathing Technique' tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz4G31LGyog
Alison Lumley, MSAOM, L.Ac.