The Business Of Stillness

By Marta Swiezynska- Yoga Teacher -

Recently my attention has been drawn to the subject of stillness, mindfulness, slowing down and making conscious choices informed by the way I feel within. And it is no secret that to hear what’s within, you have to work through all the noise coming from with-out. You don’t fine-tune the engine of a racing car in the middle of a racing track, do you? You take it to a pit stop, to listen to its heart beat.

For a while I have been living in a fast lane. I have become rather good in multi-tasking in both, “doing” and “thinking” mode. But now, my mind, which is used to working in sixth gear starts recognising slowly that a counteraction is needed. I am beginning to recognise the need to be still and quiet to hear more than the roar of the engine.

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And I am not the only one that needs it, it appears.

Wherever I look, the world seems to be making enquiries about how to bring more peace into everyday life, people want to slow down the intensity of work, pace of breath, speed of life. All fast and furious fitness workouts begin to give way to slower, more mindful practices that build up strength and resistance in both body and mind. It is sign of the times changing. It had to come.

All commendable, but we cannot always retract to the slow lane to think and contemplate, we have to make decisions as we go along! Yet, it is only from a space that is quiet that we can see things clearly and keep a healthy distance between ourselves and our thoughts and emotions. Only when things are peaceful can we make decisions without judgement or being influenced by emotions or impulses.

It is amazing how many quietening, balancing and almost tranquilising for the nervous system yoga practices are out there. Within a reach of your hand are exercises that can help anyone, and I mean anyone, become more focused and can help you to tap into the source of your internal stability. With some of these practices being more complex than others, there are, to name the few many kinds of meditation, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), and various breathing exercises that yoga employs to bring a piece of calm and stillness to the mind.

What seems to be such an important common denominator to all above practices is their aim: a real sense of quietude and stillness. Yet, interestingly, what we need to approach these practices, however simple or complex, is being still and quiet.

If you tried, you know that disengaging the mind and finding “inner peace” and “stillness within” are elusive and not easy to attain. They are fleeting and delicate. Especially the moment we catch ourselves feeling blissfully peaceful is the moment we lose that bliss, because the mind has gotten in the way!

So how do we go about this business of stillness without frustration and annoyance and wanting to give up before even starting properly? Well, I’m not sure if we can avoid tripping and falling occasionally: how many times did you fall of your bike learning to ride, how many times did your car stall (repetitively, like a drunk kangaroo) when you were learning to drive? It is almost the same.. almost.

It appears you can find stillness in an eye of a tornado.

Take the middle of a busy day, a Saturday in my case. A day filled with work up to the brim usually, but that day I managed to negotiate a slot of time for a haircut.

All excited about such special bi-annual event, I take one of the salon’s comfortable seats and expect  the universe to become still. I want a moment of bliss while melting into the chair, becoming hypnotised by tiny tugs as my hair is being cut, almost drifting off to the sound of hairdryers’ tune in the background, smelling conditioner, shampoo, silk.. and yet, what starts creeping to the forefront (not even to the back!) of my mind are…shopping lists, to-do lists, lesson plans, tunes, recipies, upcoming birthdays, emails to send and whether I have parked outside correctly. A relentless avalanche of thoughts, emotions and impulses.

Please not now! The more I resist, the more they come, taking away my enjoyment of a rare moment of stepping away from working life.

And this is when I figured that resistance is futile.

I let the thoughts run, but I filtered them and focused on only some of them.. well, bliss (which was still there), feeling of melting into a chair (still there too), experiencing hypnotising tiny tugs as my hair was being cut (still happening), listening to the sound of hairdryers’ tune in the background (they have never gone), smell of conditioner, shampoo, silk ..

I removed myself from the fast lane of all thoughts. Stayed still in the pit lane for a moment to feel, to hear, to experience.. and took off again, recharged.

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I do it once a day now enjoying food, sunshine on my face when I am on a train, a song that I hear. I dedicate my focus on that one short thing a day, making a simple daily activity an isolated, meditative experience.

By shifting the mind to the slow lane, we become capable of hearing what’s within, filtering all the noise coming from with-out. We do see things more clearly, we can make decisions without judgement, we gain the capacity to distance ourselves from emotions or impulses. To put things in fluffy words: for a moment, the universe becomes still.. almost.

I don’t mind.

To read more about Marta click here

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