Learning to Be Still

May 29, 2019

I find myself too busy lately. Too busy working. Too busy training. Too busy doing this and that. I long for less noise. Less going here and doing that.

Some days, I long to just be STILL.

Quite honestly, I don’t even know what being still looks like, what it FEELS like. Don’t get me wrong. I do not feel as if I am overly stressed. I am enjoying my job and what I am doing at work (despite anticipating some new changes soon). In addition, I have been writing about how much I enjoy my latest hobby of weightlifting.

It is BECAUSE there is so much I want to do, to accomplish, and goals to smash, I simply do not have enough time to actually be still. Restore.

So, I figured the best method was to treat it like a muscle — train myself to be still — and what can teach you to be more still-like or be meditative more than yoga? I signed up for a 6-month membership and committed myself to another thing to add to my already busy schedule!

Wait. What?! I know it is counterintuitive, but if yoga can’t help me be more still, then I can at least benefit from increased flexibility and mobility that [should] have a positive impact on my weightlifting, right? This is my rationale.

Coincidentally, a recent recommended book that came up on my Amazon list was entitled, “The 3-Day Effect: How Nature Calms Your Brain” by Florence Williams. I listened to it on audible, and although a little disappointing since it was mainly anecdotal, the author made me look into the research on this topic. Specifically, Dr. David Strayer’s work on what he coined, “the 3-day effect” in which he found that 3 days in nature can significantly improve resting neurophysiological and cognitive responses, as well as mood and well-being.

What Dr. Strayer calls “cognitive restoration” is EXACTLY what I am longing for in “stillness”.

Without going too much into the science, research on measuring cognitive restoration shows that exposure to nature also increases executive attention, creativity, positive mood, well-being, subjective alertness, and appreciation for nature.

As for my cognitive restoration training, I will plan a 3-day nature excursion when I can fit it into my schedule. In the meantime, I am looking for opportunities to connect with nature more often. It is spring-summer and the weather has been beautiful lately. For example, I intentionally park in our overflow parking lot at work four out of five days during the week. It is not necessarily for the exercise (God knows I get that), but this is my CR training time: it is a 10-minute walk over a wooden bridge, overlooking a river with the sounds of nature singing throughout the trees surrounding the water. I have now added 20 minutes of this into my daily schedule.

To be honest, it took some real effort NOT to think about my “to do list” during my walk into work, or what I didn’t get done on my walk back to my car. It still is at times. It truly takes a focused intention to listen. I mean really listen. Listen to the sounds of the trees whispering, the river running, and the birds singing.

In yoga, I am learning how to meditate easier. To listen to my body move, listen to it feel, listen to it breathe, and yes, listen to be still.

It seems like this should all be fairly easy, but I am finding that this is significantly more difficult than expected. If my body isn’t busy, my mind surely is and at twice the pace if not more. It just takes focused intention. Lots of it.

I am learning… still.

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