Most of our lives are so hectic that it is a struggle to devote time to staying still. It can feel like we are actually wasting time, when there are so many things that need our attention. We might agree in theory that stillness would actually help us accomplish the tasks on our to-do list by making us focused and efficient, but in reality it rarely feels this way. When you only have 30 minutes to run to the grocery store, pick up the dry cleaning and get to the post office before it closes, being still isn’t even an option. Days can blend together without our realizing that we never managed to find stillness once.
Being still is being mindful. It is quieting the body so that we can take a breather from our surroundings and connect inwardly. It’s not about thinking anything, or doing the work of stillness. It is simply being fully present, who you are, in the moment. Even one conscious breath taken in this way can be transformative. Scheduling time to be still is one great way to make this practice a lasting habit, but it can be hard to stick to the schedule when life gets really busy (although that’s likely when you need the practice the most). One way to incorporate stillness regularly without a defined schedule is to link it to your emotions.
For me, one benefit of practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is that I have become much more in tune with my emotions. I have always considered myself a sensitive person, but my mindfulness practice has dramatically increased my awareness of my sensitivity. This means that my experience of being moved by a song, for example, is several fold what it used to be. We all feel our feelings on a spectrum of intensity. By getting to know your own spectrum of emotional intensity, you can get a better sense about what triggers your feelings, and in turn, where you find the most meaning in life. The way you can enjoy that meaning even more would be to practice stillness when something triggers strong emotion.
Think of a scale, where 1 is being dead and 10 is the height of emotion (extreme grief, or extreme ecstasy). Most emotional states that fall on the low end of the spectrum are likely not within our conscious awareness when we experience them. On the other hand, emotional states at the high end of the spectrum can completely consume us until we are aware of nothing else. Figure out where your 5 is, and what that feels like for varying emotions. What is your middle of the road emotional intensity? This would be a sense of feeling at which point you are clearly aware that you are experiencing emotion, but it’s not so overpowering that it forces an interruption of the moment.
When you go throughout your day, try to pay attention to your emotional states. When you find that you feel something at a 5 or higher, pause for a few seconds and be still. Take a deep breath and just be with that emotion. Experience it. Stop any extraneous movements, close your eyes if you prefer, and tune in. What this does is connect your conscious awareness to your emotional state at a threshold level of intensity. At this level, your day is likely affected by these level 5 feelings, but you might not be aware of it or appreciate in what way this happens. So if you are feeling a positive feeling, it will feel richer and can be a source of gratitude. If you are feeling a negative feeling, you can acknowledge it and release it right then.
This doesn’t take more than a few seconds, but using your emotional intensity as a gauge for finding stillness can be as beneficial as an hour of meditation trying to quiet your mind.
I love feedback! If you have tried this technique, please comment below and let me know how it worked for you.