I recently finished reading the book The Art of Stillness, Adventures in Going Nowhere, by Pico Iyer. In his TED book, Pico speaks with romance about his visit with Leonard Cohen at a monastery just outside the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, his meetings with the Dalai Lama's interpreter, Matthieu Ricard, and his stimulating conversation with a harden Marine named Andrew, among numerous others.
While reading The Art of Stillness, there were many moments where I was forced to reflect on my own life, my own inability to remain still or quiet, and what things I could immediately change to improve my life and, by doing so, improve the lives of those I interact with.
One moment was while reading Ricard's thoughts on air travel (which, for me, is quite stressful):
"There's nothing I can do, so it's quite liberating. There's nowhere else I can be. So I just sit and watch the clouds and the blue sky. Everything is still and everything is moving. It's beautiful."
Iyer goes on to explain that Buddhists use that exact analogy to explain the human mind. A blue sky dotted with clouds. Even through times of dark, heavy clouds, if you are patient long enough, the blue sky will inevitably return.
Another aspect of The Art of Stillness is the need for all humans to focus on the present moment and not tomorrow's, or even this afternoon's, stress or schedule. I only realized how guilty I was of that while recanting my trip to the American Library Association's annual conference this past weekend.
I found myself rushing ... almost speed walking ... to the next booth, the next author signing, the next book drop. I should have lingered longer in appreciation of the silent auction items. There were handmade quilts and portraits that should have commanded my full attention. I should have taken stock in every dip of the needle and every swipe of the brush, but I didn't.
I did not exercise stillness while at ALA and, in hindsight, I am saddened by that. While I cannot change yesterday, I can certainly change tomorrow!!
Below are three things you (and, don't forget, I'm joining you on this) can do immediately to change your today and, hopefully, your forever:
1. Mediate: Take 15 minutes each day to sit in a quiet place and let your mind devour and cleanse your thoughts, the dark clouds of being a human, until the bright blue sky returns. It has been statistically proven time and again that mediation (whether that be prayer to a deity or quiet reflection) helps improve blood pressure and anxiety levels.
2. Unplug: Make one evening a week a technology-free oasis. This includes your cellular phone, your tablet, your kindle, and even [**gasp**] your television. Use those moments to have conversations either with yourself or with those you adore most. Use those moments of quiet to allow your body's message to be received. Do you need more sleep, more water, more food? Your body will give you the answers to all of those questions and more if you are quiet enough to receive them.
3. Breathe: This one may sound silly at first as I am sure you are all thinking, "We are all breathing all the time - duh!" I'm not talking about reflexive breathing - I'm talking about conscience breathing. I want each of you to find time during the day to intentionally breathe. Follow your breath as it enters and exits your body, and while enjoying the sensation - slow it down, way down.
I encourage all of our No Worries' clan members to read The Art of Stillness and to make your own case for quiet.
I'm proud of you already!