Be Still and Know

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Be Still and Know

In the world we live in, being still is looked down upon. How busy you are has become a marker of your success. Multi-tasking, juggling, and occasional double-booking are expected. The idea of stopping just to be still seems almost inconceivable. Why stop, when you could be achieving something else?

But what are you afraid would happen if you did stop? If, for example, you woke up ten minutes early to sit and meditate. It wouldn’t affect your productivity, but would it be uncomfortable? Would it allow those thoughts in the back of your mind to start to come out? Because you’re doing amazing at keeping all those balls in the air, but deep down, how are you really feeling?

Often, staying busy is a way of running away, of hiding from the truth. In the moment, it makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something, like we’re worthy. But every moment is inevitably followed by another, when the satisfaction of crossing one thing off the list is replaced by the anxiety of starting the next, and the deeper knowledge that the list will never be complete.

When you pause, you allow yourself to listen to what’s really going on. You give yourself the chance to be honest, to consider how you’re living your life—the ways you treat others and yourself, the ways you react in stressful situations, the ways you spend your days. As Ram Das said, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

What you find might be uncomfortable at first, but only when you find it will you have the opportunity to make a choice—to begin to align your actions with who you truly want to be. Meditation means “remembering”. Remembering to come back to your breath. Remembering to come back to how you feel. Remembering what works and is best for you. Remembering to listen to and follow your truth.

And you don’t have to sit down for formal meditation to find stillness. You can start on your yoga mat, in any pose. Notice that even there it’s often hard to stop—when a pose gets uncomfortable, you shift, your eyes dart from your hand to your foot to the ceiling, you do anything to distract yourself from the feeling in your body. But also notice that when you do stop, when you focus your eyes on one point, deepen your breath, and settle into the pose, only then can you hear what your body really needs—and only then do you find the possibility of true expansion.

The more you know the feeling of stillness and the truth it brings you, the more you can come back to it even in the midst of the daily whirlwind. When you find yourself overwhelmed, swept up in the stress of planning, or reaching to the nearest comforting thing to help you forget, just pause. Take a breath, come back into your body, find a moment of stillness, and remember. Then you can take your next step from your heart.

It can be helpful to have an anchor, or a reminder. I often wear a beautiful ring my sister gave me. When I look at it, I think of her poise and wisdom. And whatever I’m doing, I try to recenter, to come back to myself. This morning, I was trying to finish up several important emails. My partner was eating breakfast, and I kept getting annoyed that he was interrupting me. Then I looked down and reminded myself to pause. I remembered how little time I get to spend with him, and how much he means to me. So instead of pushing him away, I joined him for breakfast. It took me away from my emails for ten minutes, but it made my morning.

It’s almost as if our default is to be underwater. When we learn to find stillness, we learn to stick our head up above the waves. And as our ability to drop into stillness grows, we realise we are floating through even the darkest of storms.

To choose stillness is not to be “unproductive”—it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.