“Self care” is a big buzz word these days, you’ll find hundreds of inspirational quotes on Instagram about it and articles written with the words “self care” in the title offering tips and techniques on how you too can exercise self care. I find it encouraging that we’ve developed a collective consciousness about its importance.
Self care has many definitions, for some it’s a mom who wants a hot bath and glass of wine away from her kids, for others it’s a hike in nature in solitude, self care takes many forms. For me self care is exercising every day for the feeling it gives me. It’s traveling to a new place once a month to be inspired. It’s taking the time to meet a friend for coffee so we can catch up and connect. All of these activities are personal acts of self care that bring me greater contentment.
This month I began another ritual of self care that has nothing to do with moving my body or engaging my mind but instead, bringing peace to my soul. Each day I sit in my studio with no distraction, I listen to music or a podcast or I read a book for the first 30 minutes, and then I simply sit in stillness with no distraction in appreciation of the present moment. Sometimes the stillness lasts only 20 minutes, sometimes more. And it’s here where I’ve discovered several things occur.
Stillness indulges my inner rebel. My closest friends and family know this truth: I’m a nonconformist and in many aspects of my life, I make my own rules. There’s an inner rebel in me that’s always looking to push back against societal norms and interestingly, stillness is one way I do it. We live in a world that’s filled with more distraction than ever, so in those moments of stillness I am immune to distraction. In a world of instant connection, I see turning off my phone or being unreachable as an act of rebellion. Sitting in stillness is how I project to the rest of the world: your patterns are not mine.
Stillness makes me mindful of the value of my time. My time has become more valuable to me in two ways as a result of this practice. 1) I pay closer attention to where and with whom I spend my energy when not practicing stillness. I focus my time, love, and attention on the people and places that make me smile and bring me joy and and I avoid the ones that don’t. 2) The gift of stillness has minimized that cultural phenomenon we call the ‘fear of missing out’. I care less about what’s happening on social media and keep my focus on matters I truly care about. In addition, that hour spent in stillness has become more important than anything else happening in the world during that hour, so not only does the time spent in stillness have greater value to me, the time not spent in stillness is not being wasted because of the lessons learned in stillness. Make sense?
Stillness leads to mental clarity. Some of the best ideas I’ve ever had have come to me just this month by making stillness a practice. It’s amazing what flows out of you when you take the time to just be still! I see my path more clearly and I see the steps to get to where I’m supposed to be. When the steps are clear, I know what actions to take and I proceed down that path with greater mental strength by trusting in myself and my abilities.
Stillness removes stress. In quiet solitude, I breathe easier and recognize more and more each day with each practice that worry serves no purpose. I don’t feel anxious about the future or even today’s to-do list. Realizing that worry has no power over me dramatically diminishes its effect. With this awareness inside, I move through my day with greater ease, with less stress, and more at peace with whatever is happening around me.
Stillness channels gratitude. Gratitude is defined as the state of being grateful or thankful, meaning that it can only happen in the moment and in the present. How many of us find ourselves constantly 1) living in the past or 2) anxious about the future? Focusing on the negative events from the past removes my ability to feel gratitude. Being anxious about the future means I’m not living in the moment and therefore cannot feel gratitude. So the greatest way to truly channel gratitude is to center myself and feel it in the moment. By pausing, breathing, and focusing on the good things that surround me today.
As we coast into June, that first warm month of summer when we’re all embracing lazier days, I encourage you too to give yourself the gift of stillness. If you’re already engaged in this ritual, tell me, what do you find comes from your practice of stillness?