How Sitting in Silence Can Help you Connect with the Strength within you
I often hear people talk about mindfulness, silencing one's mind, removing chaos from one's life, and connecting with your inner self. I have also had people tell me they don't quite understand what it means to be still, or what they are supposed to do to connect with themselves; moreover, most of us do not realize that we need silence, or that chaos surrounds us! How does one connect with our inner beings, when we don't realize that we are disconnected to begin with?
Picture a typical day - you wake up for your alarm, hit the snooze button at least once, turn on the TV or radio as you go about your morning routine, make lunches and breakfasts, sip your coffee or tea on the go, shower and out the door you go. Traffic and the radio, a very full bus or train, get to work and start your day, meeting after meeting, deadlines and timelines, sometimes lunch at your desk while you work, or lunch with a friend, and before you know it - it's time to head home. Home to make dinner, homework with kids, or dinner with friends, yoga or the gym, or a movie and dinner. However your day may unfold, silence and solitude tend to be a rare commodity in a typical day.
If the environment around you feels rushed, how do you still your mind and being, in order to center yourself, ground yourself and connect with silence? Do you even need to? Research has shown that mindfulness (or taking time to still the mind through grounding, breathing or centering oneself) has shown to improve physical health, relieve stress, improve resting heart rate, reduce gastrointestinal difficulties and improve sleep (helpguide.org). Additionally it helps reduce rumination (for anyone struggling with anxious thoughts), helps emotional regulation (you are better able manage feeling overwhelmed), and supports focus and concentration (apa.org).
Acknowledging the benefits of stilling one's mind, brings us to the question - how does one cultivate a practice of mindfulness, in a day that does not leave room for silence? It takes focused effort to prioritize stillness until being still - if even for five minutes in your day- becomes habit! Most often we mistake stillness for an activity that will help with stillness. For instance meditation; the view that mediation will help one be still, has many people trying to mediate, has them feeling like they are failing and results in a sense that stillness cannot be achieved. Do not mistake meditation for stillness! Mediation is an activity, if practiced diligently over time will support a connection with the stillness within you. However, it is just one activity that will support it. If mediation, qigong, tai-chi or any other activity that supports a sense of "slowing down" is not for you, try stilling the environment around you, and a "stillness of mind" will follow.
How? Take 5 minutes of your 24 hour day for yourself; no TV, radio, book, family, or movement. Silence, quiet, a cup of tea, a bath, a walk with nature alone or someone that you can be quiet with, sitting on your balcony as the night sets in, or at your window as the sun comes up. Five minutes to breathe, inhaling deeply from the core of your being, exhaling from your mouth and appreciating the beauty in front of you; even if it is a serene picture on your bathroom wall or a the darkness of the night. If stillness feels uncomfortable, sit with the discomfort; if stillness feels foreign, focus on the pressure of your feet touching the firm ground beneath you. Press into the ground beneath you or the seat under you; let the pressure you use, be a connection to stillness. Eventually with daily practice the pressure will not be necessary, and stilling those parts that require movement, will become easier.
Five minutes to still your mind, inhale and exhale slowly and purposefully, feeling the stillness invade each part of your body and mind. This is stillness. This is sitting with silence.
For more information on mindfulness:
American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
Harvard Health Publishing https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature