Why stillness? To handle any situation and reach your goals. To live and die well.
Who is stillness for? It’s for everyone, you already have tasted it before.
How to achieve stillness? By focusing on three domains: the mind, the soul, and the body.
“We must learn to think rationally and clearly about our own fate.”
Live in the present
Living in the present means to stop dwelling on the past, fantasize/worry about the future, or distract ourselves out of the moment. We can’t reach excellence if our mind is wandering around.
How? By focusing on our breath or on the process at hand itself, even if it’s boring, insignificant in appearance, or painful. Don’t pull out your phone, don’t think, do, or talk needlessly. Simply be.
Limit your inputs
To drive our limited attention toward what truly matters. The way we consume information is like a diet: you want to remove what poisons you.
How? Don’t consume news in real time, limit your availability, turn off your notifications/phone, remove background noises and distractions, cultivate solitude.
Slow down and think deeper
Surface thinking doesn’t bring truth. It takes time and efforts to go beyond first impressions.
How? Take your time to overcome preconceptions: “Think about what’s important to you, what’s actually going on, what might be hidden from view, what the rest of the chessboard looks like, what the meaning of life really is. […] Sit alone in a room and let your thoughts go wherever they will. Do this for one minute. . . . Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wandering. Then start paying attention to your thoughts to see if a word or goal materializes. If it doesn’t, extend the exercise to eleven minutes, then twelve, then thirteen . . . until you find the length of time you need to ensure that something interesting will come to mind.”
Learn to empty your mind
Thinking is important. But over-thinking is detrimental to our well-being by creating doubts and insecurities. A clear mind is necessary for optimal performance.
How? Get comfortable deliberating without being paralyzed.
To deal with an emotional or intellectual problem, to improve and record your thinking, to appease the mind.
How? Document your day, ask yourself hard questions: “Where am I standing in my own way? What’s the smallest step I can take toward a big thing today? Why am I so worked up about this? What blessings can I count right now? Why do I care so much about impressing people? What is the harder choice I’m avoiding? Do I rule my fears, or do they rule me? How will today’s difficulties reveal my character?”
Make room for silence
Cultivating silence is removing noise from your life to really start listening. Without silence, we cannot hear, and so our mind remains closed to what happens both inside and outside of ourselves. This lack of awareness is detrimental.
How? Perform activities that do not involve talking or hearing someone else’s input: walking, running, cycling, listening to instrumental music, sit quietly and reflect, etc.
Wisdom is the search for truth, it’s about learning. If you stop learning, you can’t blossom into a better version of yourself.
How? Ask questions, study, reflect. Stay humble. Open yourself to new experiences to rise above your own dogmas. Seek mentors and teachers. Read books. Challenge yourself, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and cultivate healthy doubts.
Be confident, let go of your ego
Ego complicates everything. It stems from insecurity, delusion, self-doubt, and fear, and is thus incompatible with stillness.
How? Stay humble, but do not relinquish your confidence in yourself. Be comfortable with who you are, yet aware of your own finiteness: “confidence is the freedom to set your own standards and unshackle yourself from the need to prove yourself.” Do not fear conflictual thoughts, judge them objectively even if they shatter your beliefs, and develop the courage to change your mind when you’re wrong.
The more we insist, the harder it gets. We need to cultivate a form of detachment to avoid self-sabotaging ourselves and succeed.
How? Stay away from obsessive behaviors and develop more mental flexibility. Take a step back to enjoy the bigger picture. Focus on building a simple process to enjoy the peace of the moment rather than chasing an outcome. Practice over goal
“We must find spiritual meaning and goodness while we are alive.”
Live a virtuous life
Abiding to virtue is developing a moral compass and following it with our whole being. Virtue enables good decisions, and thus peace and happiness by proxy.
How? Ask yourself the following questions: “What’s important to me? What would I rather die for than betray? How am I going to live and why?”. Develop your own philosophy according to your answers and make sure you can put it wholly into practice.
Heal your inner child
The way we grew up largely influences us during adulthood, sometimes negatively. Acknowledging the wounds we sustained allows us to better control our emotions.
How? Recount your childhood. Be aware of the negative emotions and patterns you develop and try to identify the source. We can’t change the past, but we have the power to choose to do good to soothe those painful memories: “When we embrace our strong emotions with mindfulness and concentration, we’ll be able to see the roots of these mental formations […] When we see the roots of things, our suffering will lessen”.
Control your desires
You can’t reach peace if you are the slave of your impulses, mainly lust, pleasure, and envy. Desire creates pain and agitation, they are the enemies of stillness.
How? Desires are irrational emotions, so you need to find a system to process them logically. Ask yourself “What will happen to me if I get what I want? How will I feel after?” and/or journal. Compare your answers with your own perception of virtue. Use your moral compass to resist and/or improve from your failures.
Learn to have enough
No matter what you seek in life, it will never be enough. The never-ending chase will leave you frustrated and unsatisfied, and this stress will prevent you from being your best self.
How? Learn to appreciate the present moment and what you already have. Don’t force things to achieve more at the cost of your family, friends, and well-being. Enjoy the process and celebrate your victories. Do things for the sake of them and you’ll reach higher heights without the dead weight known as anxiety.
Bathe in beauty
Looking at beauty is calming, it creates inner peace.
How? Beauty is everywhere, but we are usually too busy to notice. Slow down and open up to the world around you to cultivate the poet’s eye (“the ability to see beauty everywhere, even in the banal or the terrible”). Be grateful for having the opportunity to feel this beauty, it’s not a given.
Accept a higher power
The world is so chaotic, mysterious, and out of control, it’s as if a greater power is at work. Acknowledging the role of fate and fortune has a calming effect. It prevents us from nihilism, from being too self-centered: it expands our consciousness and gives us meaning.
How? Acknowledge there is something bigger than us and believe you have a purpose. God, the Universe, Nature… the name is irrelevant. Don’t be afraid of things you can’t control.
“Life without relationships, focused solely on accomplishment, is empty and meaningless (in addition to being precarious and fragile).” As the quote goes, happiness is only real when it’s shared. Stillness requires and is for other people.
How? Find partners and friends who make you better and for whom you would do the same. Cultivate this love. It will take time, work, sacrifice, and commitment, but it will also be rewarding.
Conquer your anger
Anger is destructive, it hurts others and ourselves. Used as fuel, it’s the source of counterproductive frustration. Anger is the ruin of the soul.
How? Do not give in to anger, do not lose your composure. Breath, ignore the offends made to you, and walk away. Do not make enemies by arguing or retaliating. Replace it with love, gratitude, and purpose.
All is one
All things in our world are connected. Everyone is necessary, everyone have the same needs. Understanding that allows us to step outside our own immediate experience, selfishness, and self-absorption. It gives us the ability to better understand and contribute to our environment.
How? Learn to appreciate people and things who are different than you, even those you hate, rather than trying to fight or change them. Make an effort to understand where they are coming from, forgive them, and wish them well. Practice compassion.
“We must treat the vessel we inhabit on this planet well—or we will be forced to abandon it early.”
We need to do less to be better at what matters. Too many distractions and responsibilities prevents us from acquiring the stillness necessary to reach peak performance.
How? Ask yourself: “What is it? Why does it matter? Do I need it? Do I want it? What are the hidden costs? Will I look back from the distant future and be glad I did it? If I never knew about it at all—if the request was lost in the mail, if they hadn’t been able to pin me down to ask me—would I even notice that I missed out?”
Take a walk
Walking is a form of meditation, it’s “repetitive, ritualized motion”. It unlocks our creative powers and soothes us at the same time.
How? Whenever you feel stuck, stiff, or burnt out, have a walk. Try to make it a daily habit if possible.
Build a routine
“[…] a good routine is not only a source of great comfort and stability, it’s the platform from which stimulating and fulfilling work is possible.”
How? “Turn the ordinary into the sacred.” A routine should answer for you questions like “What do I wear? What should I eat? What should I do first? What should I do after that? What sort of work should I do? Should I scramble to address this problem or rush to put out this fire?” to increase endurance and focus.
Get rid of your stuff
Possessions get in the way of stillness by creating worries, distractions, and fear of loss. Especially when you live above your means.
How? Put everything you don’t use in boxes and trash bags. Resell, give away, downsize. Make room for people instead of things.
Seek out solitude and perspective.
Creative breakthroughs happen when you’re alone with your thoughts for a purpose: “Solitude allows you to reflect while others are reacting. We need solitude to refocus on prospective decision-making, rather than just reacting to problems as they arise.”
How? Cultivate solitude by planning moments of it throughout the day. It can be while sitting at your desk, walking in the wood, or sitting outside with a cup of coffee … just any moment free from the inputs of others.
Be a human being
Overworking leads to extreme stress, depression, and sometimes premature death.
How? Internalize that work won’t set you free, that it’s not a competition where you constantly have to outperform yourself. Know your limits, enjoy the present, and establish boundaries between your work and your personal life to replenish yourself.
Find a hobby
A hobby is any physical activity that replenishes and strengthens your soul.
How? Don’t do something to pass time or escape reality, find a hobby that both challenges and relaxes you. A leisure shouldn’t become work either, it’s a reward with no purpose.
Beware of escapism
“You can’t escape, with your body, problems that exist in your mind and soul. You can’t run away from your choices—you can only fix them with better choices.[…] When you defer and delay, interest is accumulating. The bill still comes due . . . and it will be even harder to afford then than it will be right now.”
How? When you feel like running away, go for a walk and get some solitude to look within. “You were given one body when you were born—don’t try to be someone else, somewhere else. Get to know yourself. Build a life that you don’t need to escape from.”
Stillness is “a tool to let you do more good for more people.” You shouldn’t shy away from risk and danger if it allows you to do the right thing according to your own moral compass.
How? Put your body to good use, for causes bigger than yourselves: volunteer, protect, serve, stand up for something. Do hard things for others. Use your stillness to live and be better.