I was watching the actress Joanna Lumley being interviewed on the Jonathan Ross show last night and was surprised and delighted to hear her talking about the need to bring moments of quiet stillness into ones’ life on a regular basis as an antidote to the frantic pace of the culture in which we live.
Those of you who have been reading these Newsletters for some time will know that I frequently talk about the need to press the “pause button” for ourselves. Many of us live our lives hurriedly trying to pack too much into a day. Our minds are frequently over-full and often agitated. And a large number of us are constantly beset by the perceived need to be at the beck and call of emails, phone calls and social media.
Travelling on an overground train to Euston recently, I was bemused to notice how many people in my carriage had their eyes glued to their mobile phones, reading texts/emails, sending messages, surfing the net or playing games. Out of around 50 people in the carriage, at least three quarters of them were engaged in this activity. And me? I was staring into space and doing my Japa. (Japa, for those who don’t know, is the silent repetition of a mantra and a form of meditation with the eyes open. It’s a great way of helping to still the mind and lessen its endless chatter).
Personally, I value silence and I also place a huge amount of worth on finding moments of stillness throughout the day. It wasn’t always like this. Not so long ago I was always running around – and running myself into the ground! Ill health was the result, and an immune system that seemed to have little in its armoury, for I would get pretty well every cold, virus and infection that was doing the rounds. I drove myself hard with the need to get everything done on my lists of things to do and would frequently forget about pausing because it became almost impossible to find the time to do it!!
But there’s always time…..
Those bus, tube and train journeys for example give you a good enough opportunity. OK, it’s not ideal – especially in the rush hour when you’re packed together like sardines, but you CAN do it. Years ago, I was always meditating on the journey to work and so were those of my friends who were in to spirituality.. If you don’t meditate, then a good way to slide off the mental merry-go-round for a short while is to record some gentle meditative music onto your iPod, plug in the ear pieces, close your eyes and just float with the music for a while. And voila – you’re pausing without very much effort at all!
You could also pause by slowly weaning yourself off the need to see every tweet, message or email that comes into your mobile as it arrives. Why not try turning it off for certain periods of the day? You’ll find the information is still there when you switch it on again!! Isn’t it true that most of the time, it’s not imperative to respond immediately to the messages or calls that come through?
Another more radical way to give yourself pause is to arrange a Media Holiday. Try it over a weekend – no newspapers, television, mobiles – NOTHING! Just try it for half a day if the thought of a whole day seems too impossible. The world will still turn, you won’t lose your friends. You might find, however, that by cutting out the usual distractions, you’re more conscious of your thoughts, and you may feel a bit shocked at first about how many there are tumbling over each other all the time. But this is normal. The mind is like a butterfly. It flits from one thing to another. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to control the mind. Try to just observe its antics and let those thoughts pass through and out, Find a meditation or relaxation process that suits you and slowly, slowly, you’ll get better at calming down all that inner chatter.
Of course, rest and relaxation come into the whole sphere of pausing as well. You’ll never waste your time by learning some good relaxation exercises and practicing them. Meditation has now been scientifically proven to be a hugely effective form of relaxation. And learning Reiki is also a wonderful way to help yourself (and others) to relax.
Did you know that it’s a physical impossibility to be negative when you’re relaxed? Think how much you’d gain by experiencing true relaxation regularly and thereby developing a more positive outlook on your life. Rest and relaxation are two of the greatest aids to healing – much better for you than pills or alcohol(!) – and cost you absolutely nothing – except the time to practice them.
Now I appreciate that many of you have been pursuing a path of personal and spiritual development for some time, and could possibly be thinking this is all old hat and you’ve been here, done it and got the T-shirt. But are you DOING it?? Going back to basics is always worthwhile. So take another look at how well you’re managing taking those essential moments of time out in everyday life. Believe me, there’s always room for improvement!!
Remember : “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your inner-most sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness ……(and)….stillness is your essential nature.” From “Stillness Speaks” by Eckhart Tolle