Delight in Stillness

“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?

Dr. Gail Parker

Even though this may be unconscious, on top of associating being still with being “bad,”  many of us associate being still with doing nothing, and we associate doing nothing with being lazy. As children many of us were criticized and made to feel ashamed of being lazy. No one wants to be judged as being either “bad” or lazy so we keep busy. A lot of the time we are not really accomplishing much, we’re just busy being busy to avoid the unpleasantness we associate with being still.

Take Sunny for example. Busy all the time, she rarely takes time out for herself because there is always so much to do for everyone else. As the primary caregiver for her aging parents, full-time teacher, wife and the mother of three school-aged children, she has her hands full–which is the reason she gives for not being able to slow down and relax. She wants to enjoy taking time out for herself, but never seems able to manage it.

On the surface, given all that’s going on in her life, it makes sense that Sunny is in perpetual motion. When she began to dig a little deeper to find why she was unable to enjoy being still, she noticed that whenever she tried to relax she became physically and emotionally agitated, which to her way of thinking defeated the purpose. So she avoided being still and relaxing even though she knew it would be good for her. “It makes me feel anxious and guilty,” she would say.

When Sunny began to practice yoga, she felt calmer until the final pose of the practice, savasana, which she regarded as a waste of time. This is where you lie awake in stillness, tuning in to your body, your emotions and your mind, letting go completely as you enter into a state of profound relaxation. Sunny was quite unfamiliar with this state of mind. Inevitably, her unconscious “stuff” would come to the surface. The good thing about that is, it allowed her to become aware that she associated being still with being punished. This awareness helped her understand her resistance to taking the time to be still, both on and off her yoga mat. With this awareness she was able, with intention and practice, to learn to associate stillness with something positive that could enhance her life.

Dr Gail ParkerIn order to delight in stillness, we need to have pleasant associations with being still.

If you have trouble being still and relaxing unless you are asleep or distracted by television, music, or some other passive activity, here are some suggestions for making stillness a pleasant experience.

While you practice being still:

Engage your imagination by visualizing a game from childhood that requires stillness. Freeze tag, Statues, or Red Light/Green Light are some examples. Remembering how much fun that was will help you associate stillness with something joyful.

Imagine all the good things you have to look forward to, or recall all the good things that have happened to you during the day.

Remember a pleasant time of being still, a day alone on the beach enjoying the warmth of the sun with no place to go, and nothing else to do.

Envision holding a baby close to your heart, feeling his/her warmth and synchronizing your breath and heart beat with the baby’s.

Come up with your own version of what makes stillness a delight, and soon dropping into relaxation will become a pleasure.

Relaxation is not a waste of time, and the benefits are worth it. Decreased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and anxiety are just some of the benefits. Relaxation also increases your energy level, stimulates memory, improves your ability to focus, enhances sleep, strengthens your immune system and gives you an overall sense of well-being.

Make time-out a reward, not a punishment. Remember, just because you seem to be doing nothing doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Namaste

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16 responses to “Delight in Stillness

  1. Pauline J. Furman

    Gail, this was perfect for me! Taking the time to be quiet and sit still is so important. It is just my opportunity to pause and think.
    And, oh my~ the things you can do wih your body! Your pictures are simply gorgeous!
    I truly appreciate this insightful sharing.
    Grateful,
    Pauline

  2. How profound! To recognize the association between punishment and being still! I’m sure that will resonate as an “aha” moment for many of us “busy bees”! Thanks Dr. Gail!!

  3. Thank you and great seeing you today!

  4. Since coming to Yoga, I am learning the art of sitting still and giving myself the OK to do it. The wonderful benefits that have emerged from this practice have been tremendous! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. m.

  5. doris harris mars

    Dr. Parker,
    I’m always amazed with the timing and subject of your blogs. As a pastor, the church community is filled with adults who think being still is a sign of laziness and will knock themselves out doing too much.
    Quietness and stillness in worship is also a challenge for the younger culture who think it’s boring to be still and quiet in worship. Thank you for the affirmation and encouragement to honor the goodness of stillness. You are so beautiful!

    been told “if it’s not rocking and shaking the roof off, it’s boring. You have reminded

  6. Gail, you look gorgeous! Thank you for your suggestions, I love reading your blog! It seems to come at the exact moment I might need some advice or inspiration.

  7. Thank you Dr. Parker. This is a great read for me personally and professionally. You offer a shift in the way that I view time outs. In education I do think students experience time-outs as a punishment. It really is an opportunity to stop and think, stop and contemplate, stop and figure out how I am going respond to a similar situation differently the next time it is presented, or simply just to stop. A time-out is an opportunity for me to go inside( listen to my heart) before I come back out (respond externally). My experience of “going in” before I “go out” has always resulted in better outcomes. Now that’s my reward!

    • Thank you for sharing. As an educator it might be as simple as taking the child aside and asking him/her to think about what they did and what they might have done differently and having a conversation with the child instead of isolating him/her to figure it out alone. My guess is if they knew a different way of responding or behaving, they would have. When we know better, we do better, but we have to be taught. As my grandmother, an educator herself used to say, “Kids don’t always think right. That’s why they need adults to help them.” Food for thought.

  8. Hi Gail,

    First of all, I love the pictures! You are so photogenic! Stunning!
    I love this blog because we are such a society of go-go-go and move-move-move and instant gratification looking for answer outside of us society! We as humans are so power-filled that everything we need in the moment is right inside of us! I love stillness and quiet! I just started my meditation practice this past week, 5 a.m. a 15 minute guided meditation before coffee. I love this gift I give to myself!
    I really enjoy your writing, thank you.

    Peace,
    Kim

    • Thanks Kim for sharing. As you go deeper into your meditation practice being still will be evermore delightful. 🙂

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