By Tom Seaman
If you are like me and probably most people, in today’s busy world it is a big challenge to be still and mentally at ease. This is such an important topic because mental and emotional calmness lend itself to a healthier body and healthier outlook on life. It is such an important component to our well-being, especially if you already live with a health condition; I live with a painful neurological movement disorder called dystonia.
According to the philosopher, Blaise Pascal, at the root of most human activity is a desire to escape boredom, introspection, and self-awareness. We go to great measures to avoid even a few minutes of quiet. For many people, it means having to deal with the painful aspects of their life, so they do whatever they can to avoid it, which is actually the way to prolong it. Silence and stillness are the keys to transcending pain and suffering. It is during this time that we learn to come to terms with whatever stresses us and overloads our mind.
When I wrote my book (Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey), which took several years, and whenever I write a blog or an article, most of my ideas come to me when I am doing “nothing.” When I am being still and alone with my thoughts. I could be in the shower, meditating, laying down resting, or taking a walk. It is in these moments of silence when I get my best ideas. They don’t come to me when and where there is noise or activity. The same held true when I wrote my new book, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges.
Also, when I remain in my everyday environment, I am distracted by my never-ending to do list. Ironically, the least amount of work takes place in my office. It is away from my office when I am practicing stillness where my mind is clear and begins to expand. Work then becomes easy because it isn’t forced. It just happens, which is so cool to me every time I experience it!
Not only does finding quiet and stillness provide me with more clarity of thought, it provides my body with rest and peace that it needs because of the pain from my dystonia. None of us with or without this health condition are the same so I don’t want to make a blanket statement, but I feel confident saying that most people lack peace, quiet, and stillness in their lives, which can worsen symptoms of your specific condition and overall health because it keeps stress levels high.
We must remember that we are human beings; not human doings. Many of us have forgotten the art of being, which can have very positive health benefits. I am not suggesting you don’t go out and be active. By all means, if you are able to, please do! What I am stressing is the importance for taking a little time and space during the day to quiet your mind and body.
There is a scene from a movie with Kevin Costner called For Love of the Game, where Costner is a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. In the movie, he is pitching against the Yankees in very loud Yankee Stadium. In order to block out all of the noise to concentrate, he uses the phrase, “clear the mechanism.” After doing this, all of the sound and movement around him completely disappears and everything except for the batter and catcher becomes a blur. He gets into what is commonly known as “the zone.” This is not something that he probably said one or two times and it worked. It took lots of practice, and the more he practiced the easier it was for him to “clear the mechanism” and get into the zone of stillness. However, during the movie when his mind was distracted, “clear the mechanism” didn’t work as well and his pitching was less effective.
When it comes to people with health conditions that require peace of mind and relaxing the body more than the average person might require, stillness becomes even more important. So many people I know with my particular condition and similar conditions have a very hard time sitting and relaxing. They have to be on the move constantly. This, for a lot of people, puts undue stress on their body which negatively impacts their symptoms.
This is why practicing stillness is so vital. It is in the stillness where we learn to have greater peace of mind and less tension in the body. It may take time and practice and be difficult to do at first, perhaps even more painful, but sitting with whatever ails us, rather than running from it, is the way to come to terms with it.
It took me a long time to learn that it was okay to sit and rest, especially when I saw the benefits that came from doing it. It was my mind and belief system I had to battle against because I thought inactivity was me wasting time. With practice, I found it to be an essential part of my health and well-being, and also help me better tap into my creative mind. This totally changed my perspective about taking breaks throughout the day without guilt, and on the days I don’t it, I accomplish less with more stress.
Whatever stillness means to you, I encourage you to practice more of it. Carve out time to sit quietly by yourself to read, listen to music, go for walk (if you can), get out in nature, practice meditation/mindfulness activities, pray and go to church if you are a religious person, or write in a journal, just to name a few things.
Let your mind go because I believe the true path to peace of mind and body is not through external things. It is found within. It’s found in the stillness. In the quiet. With yourself. Take the time to be still. Take the time to be in the moment. Turn off the world the best you can and take the time to be present with yourself.