How To Bring Stillness To Your Life, And Why You Should

How To Bring Stillness To Your Life, And Why You Should

In a world that is constantly vying for our attention, that very thing has come to be our greatest resource. It’s what advertisers want. It’s what TV wants. It’s what our employers want. It’s what our friends, family, and partners want. While using this precious resource for good cause has a utility in and of itself, do we really want to give every last ounce of it away? How much is too much? How can we manage this outflow to make sure there is an equally abundant inflow to keep us vibrant, healthy and aligned? I’ve recently gone through a stage of complete overstimulation that forced me to step back and contemplate these very questions myself. My personal answer and suggestion, as shared by many others before me is simple: stillness.

What I would like to propose here, is that just maybe, the true answers to our problems often lie less in the act of doing and quite literally, in the doing of nothing at all. In stillness, we pause the inflow of information from the world, providing the opportunity to truly process the experience we are having. It allows for a moment of listening when we can hear what our intuition is telling us, to hear how we truly feel about the circumstances in our life. In more esoteric terms, it gives us a chance to be who we truly are, and see how our outer reality reflects this. In a world that bombards us with stimulation from all angles, contemplation, reflection, and true solitude are certainly more important than ever. Without these moments for nobody but ourselves, we are vulnerable to the world around us. We become a product of our environment, instead of a product of our intentions and dreams. We are indeed able to create whatever reality we decide upon in life, but only if we are in a frame of mind that is capable of doing so. This is the true power of inner stillness.

“That space between your ears—that’s yours. You don’t just have to control what gets in, you also have to control what goes on in there. You have to protect it from yourself, from your own thoughts. Not with sheer force, but rather with a kind of gentle, persistent sweeping. Be the librarian that says “Shhh!” to the rowdy kids, or tells the jerk on his phone to please take it outside. Because the mind is an important and sacred place. Keep it clean and clear.”  – Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key

So, with all of these benefits and considerations in mind, how is it that we bring stillness into our lives? One thing to consider, is that there is no simple answer to this question. Each and every one of us will have our own means of experiencing the stillness that is uniquely our own. With a true intention of doing so, we can find the form of ‘pause’ that is right for each of us. This pause is whatever provides you with a moment of silence, while simultaneously giving you a chance to contemplate, reflect, and find clarity.

For those who may want a few more ideas on things they can do to bring more stillness into their lives, here are some of my favourite suggestions for anybody seeking a moment of silence for all the right reasons:

Journalling

Taking some alone time to journal is quite possibly the perfect example of stillness. In doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to process our experiences through the written form. We can take account of the events of our life, journal through our desires, goals, and plans, or we can simply write for the pleasure of it. Sometimes, the whole point of this time is to simply be with ourselves, accepting whatever it is we are experiencing without resistance. I for one use journalling as a processing tool, often overlooking the power that lies in simply writing for the stillness of it. Sometimes an escape from all the processing is what we all really need to regain touch with our inner identity.

Meditation

Meditation is perhaps the ultimate act of stillness. This activity is in its very essence, the art of focus on the present, ignoring all the considerations and chatter of our nagging monkey mind. Taking time to unwind, focus within and experience the moment at play, is an activity and a practice with far-reaching benefits. Not only does this ritual provide clarity and stillness in the moment, but it also enhances the capacity of our mind to bring this state of mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. Long term meditators have an enhanced brain capacity for focus, calm and clear thinking that they bring to every interaction and challenge. It is literally a workout for the mind with the added benefit of providing a much-needed escape from the bombardment of external stimulation.

Exercise

Although movement, in general, can provide stillness in its own way, I believe there is nothing that can replace the power of exercise. Working out releases endorphins, hormones, and proteins that have the ability to enhance our ability to learn, while freeing our mind from anxiety and mental clutter. Not only does it keep our minds sharp and youthful, but it also keeps our bodies strong and fit. The inherent connection between mind and body is certainly undeniable, and a very real aspect of mental maintenance comes with physical exercise. Taking these moments to care for and connect with our body can provide our minds with a much-needed moment of pure presence. In this moment of exertion, our focus is internal, and can certainly be a valuable form of stillness.

Creation

Working on any form of self-expression that we are truly passionate about at our very core is an amazing form of stillness. For myself personally, I achieve are a rare state of flow when I am recording or editing a podcast, writing an article, or working on any form of personal creative project. As long as the creative activity is something I truly enjoy, I find myself able to completely detach from the external reality that surrounds me, focusing on the project at hand. This form of expression keeps us connected to who we are, what we enjoy and what we want for ourselves. At the very least, it is often quite meditative and helps us train our minds for creativity and self-expression in other areas of our lives as well. Find what makes you tick, and do more of that. This is what intuition truly means, and it really is quite simple.

Adventure

Get the heck out of your comfort zone. See new things, meet new people, and collect some new and unique experiences. Adventures are something that puts us in the moment, simply because we have to be. When our brains and bodies are absorbing newness, they are sharp, aware and they are like a sponge, forming new neural pathways with each passing event. For myself, this is one major reason why travel has become a passion, or moreover an addiction of mine. Adventures allow us to see how we feel about new things. They allow us to understand the automatic responses that come up in new situations, which we can then contemplate, going ever the more deep in thought and awareness. Stillness comes in many shapes and forms, and living in the true present moment without any form of judgment or comparison is certainly one of these forms. Give this a try and you just may be surprised what you learn about yourself when placed in a situation that is either new or intimidating. It is here where our comfort zone truly expands, and this where unattached experiences takes place.

Family & Friends

This may not be the case for everyone, but for myself, my people are very grounding. They remind me who I am, what I care about and that I can kick back, have some laughs and enjoy any moment. When I take a day off to truly reconnect with friends and family, I find myself charged up for life with a gusto I don’t find many other places. Taking these moments to simply be where I am, with whoever I am with, allows me to enjoy some of the purest presence I know, free from contemplation, planning or organizing. If you haven’t found your people yet, simply set this as an intention for your life. From this place, you can find opportunities that will connect you with them. You will know they are the right ones if they ground you the way my people ground me. Always cherish your family and your friends because those people and your relationships with them are what life is truly about. Aside from our interactions with others, we are basically just walking meat bodies hanging out on a giant rock.

Read A Book

There is truly no better way to utilize the mind while simultaneously giving it a very real break. Reading can inform us, relax us or simply provide a momentary state of detachment. In many ways, reading is quite a meditative practice. For one, it slows the stimulation we allow into our minds. When we read we are tightening this stimuli filter, focusing on the words we are reading instead of what our friend Natalie posted on her Instagram story, or the broken coffee machine at the office. A secondary benefit of this is that a physical book is a really great break from the digital realm. So much of what we do in modern life relies on phones, computers, and technology. There has never been a better time to turn off the phone and pick up a physical paperback book. Diving into a great story is an age-old way of bringing some stillness into a busy routine. Taking these moments for ourselves have, and always will be important.

Spend A Day Alone

This is the art of the “me day”. We live in a world that tells us in so many ways, how we need to be. That we need to be with a partner, that we need to be with friends, or that we need to be successful to be valuable. We are inherently valuable at any moment when we are simply being ourselves, and this requires neither rules, expectations or external validation. We spend so much time doing things with the expectations of others in mind that we often forget what our own value systems truly are. We lose touch with what our inner guidance system is telling us. Self-days are one way we can remind ourselves of what we want, what we like, how we want to live. The premise here is planning a day where we do exactly what we would do if nobody else had a say in the matter. This is an exercise in individuality, stillness, and intuition. Do what YOU want to do, and do what feels right.

Find Yourself Some Nature

This is perhaps the oldest form of stillness known to mankind as a whole. We came from nature, and we will always get back to nature. Get outside, get near some trees, some water or something green. Nature has a calming effect on the mind that is irreplaceable. As humans, we often forget our direct connection to the natural world around us. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We came from this land, and we are evolved to be at peace in its presence. If you live in a big city like myself, this may be moderately more difficult, but you will likely come to cherish your parks more than you ever have before. Touch the grass, touch the trees and absorb their beauty. Be chill, be calm, be still. Enjoy the soothing experience nature provides, and be grateful for every moment of it. If we don’t learn to appreciate it, this could very well one day be gone.

“What do we want more of in life? That’s the question. It’s not accomplishments. It’s not popularity. It’s moments when we feel like we are enough. More presence. More clarity. More insight. More truth. More stillness.”Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key

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Your Emotions Have A Purpose

Your Emotions Have A Purpose

 

We place a tremendous amount of trust in our bodies ability to communicate with us. It sends us signals when we experience something good, and obvious indications when something is not. It has the ability to tell us what it needs and when it needs it. Hunger is a reminder, exhaustion is an indication and discomfort is signal. Pleasure, pain and every sensation in between provides a similar function, sending us constant feedback about the physical state of our frame. ‘Listen to your body’ is a statement aforementioned by many due to the truth behind it. Each of us possesses our own unique needs, and nobody can truly understand and communicate these physical assertions better than ourselves.

 

The presence of this intuitive operating system is a concept we have been taught from day one. We instinctively know which sensations are good and bad, and learn the others early on. These indicators have come to be simple truths in our minds. Realities we trust and rely on. When discussing this incredible function of our bodies, I find it interesting that we often neglect one of the most important elements of what it means to be human; our mind. We listen to our bodies, as though they speak to us in the form of irrefutable truths, though we immediately overlook negative thoughts and emotions as illness, disease, or troubles that we must simply neglect. I for one, believe this to be a completely misguided approach to understanding the power of the human mind and what our thoughts are trying to tell us. Just like the powerful sensations of our body, these emotions are absolutely purposeful, and serve an important function that we rarely consider.

 

We live in a world where more times that not, medical treatment serves to cure the symptoms of an illness, not the cause. This is especially the case with mental distress. We label each symptom with careful consideration, diagnosing troubles before we even understand what exactly their source is. While this approach may absolve problems for some people, I want to bring attention to an alternate perspective. A perspective that is much less demonizing toward our mind and the way it acts when we are not necessarily in control.

 

Perhaps this form of emotional feeling is in fact meant to serve the exact same purpose as the physical sensations of our body. Maybe our thoughts and emotions are simply here to indicate something important to us. To signify whether we are making the right choices about our lifestyle, our habits and our priorities. I believe it is quite possible that these feelings are nothing more than natures intelligent way of indicating to us that we are out of alignment, that we are disconnected from critical aspects of our being that we personally require to be at our best. These aspects include: meaningful work, social connection, passion, health, purpose and even nature. Just as our bodies bruise when they experience an injury, our minds experience a similar trauma. It is quite obvious to me that wrongful living certainly does not possess the ability for righteous thought. Instead of demonizing or succumbing to the mental patterns in cycle throughout our mind, we should approach them from a stance of observation. Negative emotions possess an incredible opportunity for awareness. Often times they are the wake up call many of us need, reminding us to prioritize elements of life that truly contribute to our happiness and ignore those that do not. They are a chance to self analyze, to change, to grow beyond our old version into a more self aware upgrade of who we once were.

“You are not the voice in your mind, but the one who is aware of it.”  – Eckhart Tolle

What is it that your thoughts are trying to tell you? Are you happy? You must be doing something right. Are you frustrated? Maybe, you require a change of habit. This form of observational consciousness is both a skill and an art. In this way, the initiative of living well and mental mastery are one and the same.

 

Maybe, just maybe, there is nothing wrong with a negative thought. It was meant to be there, the key is understanding why. It is nothing more than a symptom of your life and the diagnosis is simple; how well are you living?

Insecurity Is The Weed In Your Garden

Insecurity Is The Weed In Your Garden

Insecurities are the weeds in your garden. Until dealt with, they grow, and they grow, until they have taken over the tomatoes and your sunflowers. Their roots dive deep, wrapping tightly around any source that can provide them nurture, however temporary or destructive that source may be. Eventually, that too will run out, and those same roots, now bigger than before, will continue diving until they find their next source of sustenance. Just like the weeds in your garden, every sinister event that has happened on our planet was a result of nothing more than insecurity itself.

Over the past few years I have come to truly appreciate this analogy, applying it to my own life with growing resolve. I’ve self analyzed endlessly, coming to awareness of some of the actions I was doing unconsciously to hold myself back. One of the best things I have done was to truly observe my insecurities, assessing why exactly I experience them. What triggers these emotions, where do they come from, and why I am perpetuating these all too familiar patterns. I, like many others, was the saboteur of my own success, though for years I was completely blind to this reality. I dove head first into the world of self-help content in search of answers to my problems, as if books on their own could help me change my reality.

This is where I possess a great deal of criticism for self help industry as a whole. Books and videos are certainly great in a multitude of ways. Knowledge is invaluable and I have no regrets about what have I learned. The problem is not in the information, but in how we approach it. This content compounds upon itself, until our mind becomes a virtual library of “how to” guides, dictating how we must live. The problem here is the drastic difference from one individual to the next. We all experience life uniquely, and my answer may not necessarily be the right one for you. When insecurity is a part of your world, it becomes the decision maker. It dictates what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how. It creates a life that seemingly feels beyond our control. A reality that is guided by needs, wants, and desires, not by principles. “How to” guides turn from advice, into nothing more than a thin external veil. One that is still piloted by the same old problems. The paradox here is indeed quite obvious. How much self help is enough? At which point do we graduate from reading about(and nurturing) our challenges to the subsequent stage, where we simply trust our newfound ability to follow a value set. At which point do we confide in our own competency, and actually begin flexing that muscle?

At a certain point, the only way to foster true growth is to face insecurities head on, observing them for what they are. The notion that old habits die hard holds a lot of truth, but when they do finally die, it’s pretty damn worthwhile. Insecurity is an inevitable aspect of being alive. It is part of the human condition and it will come and go as it pleases. We do not get to decide why it happens, but we can decide how. When we stop providing our insecurities with constant nurture, we give ourselves the chance to call the shots.

This is how we grow.

insecurity the mindful steward

Sean Grabowski On The Infinite Game Podcast

Sean Grabowski On The Infinite Game Podcast

I recently was invited to join Lee Mann as a guest on his new podcast: The Infinite Game. I met lee about six months ago at a digital marketing conference where him and I had the chance to dive into some deep topics together and really explore some interesting concepts that I rarely have the opportunity to discuss. Luckily, he extended me an invite to continue our conversation behind the microphone. This conversation was a ton of fun to record and I believe we hit on some really interesting and relevant topics modern individuald are facing in the world of creativity and health, as well as many issues professionals are facing amidst the booming world of technology.