Three Practices to Help You Find and Keep Stillness

Does being still require an exquisite landscape to study and absorb? I really hope not because a mountain view or ocean scape are simply not always accessible.

Stillness is a state of mind

If we accept this to be true, we can maintain stillness in a crowd or while with our families. We can find it while engaged in a conversation or during our yoga practice. Stillness doesn't mean we can't be moving or interacting with others.

"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." ~ Deepak Chopra

This sounds marvelous, Deepak, but how do we actually do this? Is stillness something we can practice?

Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. We can practice stillness just like we practice everything else. But it's the willingness to cultivate it that might scare some of us. It doesn't feel natural so therefore, we decide we can't obtain it. But we absolutely can and the rewards are so worth it.

The Rewards of Finding Stillness

  • Happiness. Stillness helps us find calm. Our nervous system responds in a positive way. We move from a baseline of agitation to contentment and we spread this to others with our presence and state of mind.
  • Increase in energy. It's just like when you get enough sleep and you feel full of vitality. Stillness and meditation can help us acquire energy by assisting us in replenishing the wells that have become quite depleted.
  • A more connected relationship with ourselves. Think of someone who typically seems very confident and self-possessed. That could be you. Stillness provides clarity and allows our truths to rise to the surface. Once we connect with who we really are and cease hiding from what is, our confidence grows. By knowing ourselves better we calm down because we are no longer uncertain or confused about who we are and what we stand for.

Doesn't this all sound grand and illuminating? How could we not want these rewards? It's a matter of figuring out how to actually achieve this state of mind and not run away from what we learn. It's dedicating to this practice the same way we are committed to asana. So where do we begin? Deepak has a few more ideas about this that are worthy of contemplation and can serve as a starting point for the practice of stillness.

"We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So, that's conscious evolution." 

He makes it sound so easy. And maybe, eventually, it actually is.

Here are a few practice ideas to help you experience the often seemingly elusive state of stillness.

1. Do something for someone without telling anyone about it.

Not only is taking anonymous action a little bit like being a superhero, but it feels so gratifying to offer a kindness without needing credit. No action is too small. Placing a bottle of your yoga buddy's favorite essential oil in her coat pocket without a word or note. Leaving hand-picked flowers on your neighbor's front porch. Making a donation to charities you revere and believe in. Recommending someone for a job without telling them you did so. Paying off a debt for someone whom you know is unable to do so themselves. The list goes on and on. Make your own and take action. It will offer you the gift of giving without expectation of receiving in return. It will shift your sense of give and take and help you focus more on not what others do for you but all you can offer to the world.

2. Take the time to listen to another and stay with their words.

Conversations always require a back and forth. But it's the way we choose to conduct the dynamics that award us a sense of stillness. If you've ever experienced a conversation where you were more focused on what you wanted to say in response than in what you were hearing, then you've felt the frustration of not being present and ignoring the opportunity to learn. Listen to another. Really hear their words and digest them. Ask questions to keep them talking and sharing. The delight that comes from focusing on another expressing their ideas, views, feelings, and outlook brings a delicious sense of being present for another. The unrest that comes with focusing on being heard versus really hearing will go away.

3. Sit in silence with another person

We don't have to meditate on a mountaintop in lotus position. Being with someone else without having a dialogue quietly drinking in their energy and allowing them to share in yours will offer profound feelings of being close and interacting with our subtle bodies. Breathing together and having a shared experience without words offers a connection that goes beyond what we think interaction should be.

I hope you find some moments of stillness today. You deserve them.

 

 


7 Simple Ways to Spread Kindness Wherever You Go

7 Simple Ways to Spread Kindness Wherever You Go

Being kind to our friends, relatives, romantic partners, children, pets, coworkers, and other people we genuinely like is easy. But being kind to complete strangers, or worse—people who are unkind to us—is much, much harder.

It takes a higher level of awareness to actively choose to spread kindness everywhere you go, in some of the most mundane and even unpleasant situations. With practice, however, it gets easier—and you’ll reap the benefits too.

Here are just seven super small and simple ways to be kinder around others, no matter where you are.

 

1. Smile more.

Smiling and frowning are both contagious, so which one would you rather spread? We tend to avoid eye contact and acknowledgment of other people we don’t know when we’re out and about, so why not challenge yourself to break that habit? A friendly smile isn’t creepy or uncomfortable when it’s done from the kindness of your own heart, with no expectation of anything in return.

 

2. Give someone a genuine compliment.

Most people spend the majority of their time living in their own little worlds, failing to notice and acknowledge what they like about other people. Whether you admire the bank teller’s hair color or love the way your partner gives you the best bear hugs, telling them about it can impact them more positively than you might realize.

 

3. Say “thank you,” and mean it.

We’ve all been conditioned to say thank you when we’re on the receiving end of kindness and generosity, but rarely do we ever say it with so much enthusiasm that it really conveys the genuine extent of our gratitude. Next time you have the opportunity to say thank you, don’t be so robotic about it. Instead, say it like you mean it. (Making eye contact and smiling is an added bonus!)

 

4. Be present when interacting with others.

Your full, undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. So make sure you put down your phone, shut off the TV, detach from those thoughts about tomorrow’s schedule, stop thinking so much about your self-image, and give people what they deserve when speaking with you—your presence.

 

5. Ask questions.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, one of the best pieces of advice he gives is to always ask other people questions. Turning your focus away from yourself and toward others is one of the easiest ways to get people to like you. When you show that you're genuinely interested in others, they’ll most likely be flattered.

 

6. Set your judgments aside.

We all judge—there’s no sense in denying it. The important thing is to recognize automatic judgments and question them before they cause us to react impulsively. If you can open your mind to the personal struggles that other people may be going through that you may have never experienced yourself, you’ll be far more likely to act compassionately toward them.

 

7. Make small sacrifices to help someone out.

If you’d rather show kindness through action than through words, you can do so with small amounts of time and effort. Here are a few examples:

  • Buying or making a small gift for a loved one
  • Offering to do chores or tasks that usually aren’t your responsibility
  • Paying for a stranger’s coffee who’s standing in line behind you
  • Holding the door open for a stranger
  • Letting the person standing behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store ahead of you if they have fewer items
  • Giving up your seat for somebody else on a crowded public transit route

 

Pick one act of kindness from the list above and challenge yourself to accomplish it every day for the next seven days. You might be surprised how good it will make you feel, and how much kindness it will attract back to you!


A Practice for Being Kinder Toward Others

A Practice for Being Kinder Toward Others

One of the harshest truths a person can admit to themselves is that their kindness toward others is conditional. When other people agree with us or serve us in some way, it’s easy to be kind.

When they do the opposite of agreeing with us or serving us, we often get caught up in our own egos and our own self-agendas and subconsciously decide that they don't fully deserve our kindness. We get impatient with the slow people in line at the grocery store, we roll our eyes after parting ways with a coworker who disagreed with us on some work matter, and we may even shout at the guy who cuts us off on the freeway.

We can all take this sort of conditional kindness as an opportunity to become mindful of our thoughts and feelings so we can maintain a more open mind when we become aware of other people’s differences. With a short and simple practice, you can slowly transform the way you treat people in your everyday life, regardless of whether their behavior lines up with your expectations or not.

Here’s how.

Practice People Watching

Pick a time of day in your daily routine where you typically get to spend a few minutes in some kind of public place. You're going to start by doing a bit of casual people watching. Some examples might include:

  • Standing in line to buy something at a store
  • Waiting for an appointment in a waiting room
  • Taking public transit
  • Sitting in a coffee shop
  • Walking down the street or through public place like a mall
  • Taking a break at work and observing coworkers around your workspace

Don’t worry — this kindness practice doesn’t require you to go up to strangers and start interacting with them. All you have to do is notice them from wherever you are.

Decide on Something You Love About Each Individual

Once you’ve found yourself in your people watching environment and have mindfully tuned into observing who’s around you and what they're doing, place your attention on just one individual. Next, say this to yourself in your head:

“I love you for __________ because it suggests ___________.”

And fill in the blanks.

For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop and notice a woman come in and walk up to the counter to place her order. You might notice that you really like her outfit. In this sort of situation, you could say something to yourself like:

“I love you for your incredible fashion sense, because it suggests that you’re a creative person who is not afraid of expressing herself.”

As another example, let’s say that you see a man sitting on the other side of the room looking frustrated with a stack of paper, a laptop, and a pen. Maybe he's a teacher grading reports, or maybe he's working on a book. Whatever he's actually working on, you could notice the work he's doing and say something to yourself like:

"I love you for your incredible work ethic, because it suggests that you're focused on a purpose that's important and meaningful to you."

There Is Good in Everyone

You’re essentially looking for interesting aspects in these strangers that you simply observe and then telling yourself positive stories about them. The stories don’t necessarily have to be absolutely true so long as they can be a possible suggestion made by what you observe. Do this for 5 or 10 minutes a day for several months to a year and you'll start to find that noticing the good in people will have become a habit.

The true test will come when you notice someone doing something or behaving in a way that you don’t approve of. Truth be told, there are good things to notice about the super slow people in line at the grocery store, coworkers who make seemingly ridiculous objections to your ideas, and yes – even those drivers on the road who cut you off.

For now, however, start with observing strangers by watching their mundane behaviors in very casual public places. This is a nice, gentle way to practice this kindness exercise without getting too caught up in judging too quickly.