How to Find Stillness – and Relax Body and Soul

Stillness is a beautiful word. It conjures up images of a relaxed body, a peaceful mind, and silence. We all want peacefulness – but it can be difficult to find true rest and stillness within a busy life. Here are some tips and exercises that will help you to find rest and relaxation for your body and soul.

The body at rest

Check in with your body. Are you relaxed?

Choose a tight part of your body, close your eyes, and relax this particular part of your body more and more with each out-breath.

The peaceful mind

When the mind is at rest, we feel peaceful. In our everyday life, it’s difficult to remain undisturbed. There are so many things that can disturb the mind.

Forest pool. Imagine a still forest pool, reflecting all the trees and plants around. When a puff of wind ruffles the surface, wavelets disturb the surface and the reflections disappear. But when the wind dies down, the surface of the water settles down. And soon the water is still again.

What I suggest to you is to see what happens if you eliminate at least some of the factors that disturb your mind.

  • Do you get stirred up by reading newspapers or watching the news on TV or on the Net?
  • Do you feel tense up when you spend time with certain people?
  • Do certain activities agitate you?

Spend a moment to think about how you could eliminate some of these factors. You’ll see in the exercise section that I’m asking you to go on a kind of a diet today. A diet that allows you to taste stillness, instead ofbusiness.

Silence

Noise is a stress factor. If you live in a big city, you are constantly bombarded with noise. We also add to the constant assault of sounds through listening to the radio or TV, playing music, and so on.

Stillness can heal. But it can be scary because we are used to coveringour loneliness or our lack of communication by filling our life with sounds.

Silence also means not speaking. A lot of what we say each day is just a ‘silence-filler’. You may find that a smile will do instead. It’s an interesting experiment to be as silent as possible mdash; even just for one day.

Traditional Zen retreats are held in silence. Anyone who has participated in such a retreat will know that this silence is powerful. All too often, words get in the way of being present. Stillness is something very precious. My experience of meditation is that it creates islands of stillness. Please look at the reading and check out the exercises for today.

It would be lovely to hear your voice in the forum today!

EXERCISES

1. Relaxation

You can do this exercise just before going to sleep. If you do it during the day, you might like to set an alarm clock. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie down and cover yourself to stay warm
  • Start at your feet, placing your attention there and saying to yourself, “My feet are warm and heavy.”
  • Move slowly up your body, imagining that each part is warm and heavy.

2. Inner Silence

Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing. Just notice sounds, sights, smells, and so on. Let go of planning thoughts or other distractions. This is a way to cultivate inner silence.

3. Outer Silence

  • Eliminate background music.
  • Only play music if you can listen to it with full attention. Just try silence for one day and see what it’s like.
  • Turn the TV or radio off if you are not attending to it or are doing something else as well.In many households the TV is blaring, even though nobody is watching it. Try turning it off as much as possible and see what happens.
  • Only speak when necessary.

What is your experience with stillness? What are your special tips for relaxation?

Please share in the comments.

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  1. catherine says:

    Hi Mary,
    Thank you for your post on silence. I am grateful to live in a very quiet environment. I so enjoy sitting and just listening to the sound of nature, especially now, because it’s spring!! I try to become aware of my breathing through the day and this helps me to stay present.
    love catherine

  2. Joe says:

    Good point about “silence filers” now that i think about it probably 99% of what most people say is just filling silence.
    .-= Joe´s last blog ..#12 The Pink Bubble =-.

  3. Iva says:

    Hi Mary,
    I am a regular reader of your blog. For me this is a serene place where I love to come back. Thank you for this!
    I am used to silence. I spend time in silence each day. Sometimes just sitting outside and enjoying the sun. However, I feel that most of the time my mind is still preoccupied with thoughts. Not necessarily worries, no. It could be daydreaming or just remembering the beautiful experiences I’ve had during the day. So, I still need to learn to just be present and listen to my inner silence.

  4. Farnoosh says:

    One of my most favorite topics lately, Mary. I am on Day 19 of a 30 day yoga and meditation challenge and I love the meditation. I use guided meditation podcasts and do them either during the day, after yoga or before bed but I do them every day. Sometimes, I do them twice. Sitting in stillness is an amazing transformation from the rush-rush mode. There is no TV or radio in my life and I stopped reading the news ages ago! I think the best advice you have here is to tune in and the silent retreats. I really want to do one of those but my husband doesn’t think I am going to survive it!! I plan to prove him wrong….!
    Thank you thank you!

    • @Farnoosh, thats right, i am trying to eliminate noise in my life too. may i ask you which meditation podcast to you here ?

      have a nice day
      herbert ( austria)

      • Farnoosh says:

        @herbert koeppel, you may certainly ask. I have even shared with my friend who has never meditated and she has sat through it for 15 minutes and wondered why it finished so fast. Current favorite: “Meditation Oasis” by Mary and Richard Maddux (I mostly listen to Mary but just going through them in order) and next “The Meditation Podcast” by Jesse and Jeanne Stern. All free on iTunes. Good luck and enjoy the serenity.

  5. Mary,
    Just reading this post and looking at the photos made me feel more relaxed! Sometimes I will be working away at something and notice that my back or shoulders are all tensed up or my brow is furrowed. I just close my eyes and take about 3 cleansing breaths and sit still, as you recommend. It really helps! I just posted about staying away from too much news and media input. That can really get you wound up. Thank as always for being a voice of peace!
    Barrie
    .-= Barrie Davenport´s last blog ..Last Day Today: Chris Guillebeau’s Guide to Success in One Year =-.

  6. ami says:

    I love this post and this topic. I think we could enhance the quality of our lives simply by seeking out or creating silence – little pools of rest for our senses and our souls.

    My kids call me the ‘TV Nazi’ because my default MO is to walk into the TV room and turn off the TV. Kids’ shows are crammed with obnoxious noise and behavior – they’re the very opposite of serenity. Hopefully my kids will figure this out – soon!
    .-= ami´s last blog ..Put more negative space in your life – and reap the reward =-.

  7. Hi Mary,
    What a great post. I go back and forth on the background sound. If I am in the car by myself, I frequently travel with the radio off. I have to admit that sometimes I like the background sound when I am working. Relaxing is not easy, but the exercises that you suggest do work. Thanks again.
    .-= Occasionallyserene´s last blog ..What could you do, if you knew you could not fail? =-.

  8. This is such an important topic, Mary. Just a few minutes of meditation can be the gateway into expansive peace. I love your suggestions for inner and outer silence.

    Sometimes when we stop and allow stillness, the mind uses the opportunity to start rattling on like crazy. The intention to be quiet can be like a healing balm which eventually soothes the busy mind. I have definitely found benefit in regular, short periods of silence throughout the day. They add up and somehow sink into body, mind, and soul.
    .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Attachment and The Art of Letting Go =-.

  9. Thanks so much for the simple instructions Mary. Many people think meditation is complicated and believe they don’t know how to do it. “My feet are warm and heavy” is so simple. I also like Thich Naht Hanh’s breath meditation: “Breathing in I know I am alive. Breathing out I smile at life.” But truthfully, my favorite way to create stillness and silence is to just be still and be silent! Simple, but not always so easy… especially when I most need it!
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..How to Hack Your Personal Storybook =-.

  10. Lynn says:

    So many of my peers fall into the ‘silence-filler’ trap. They are insecure if we are together, not speaking. It’s as though silence means we are not together. Presence is enough in my mind. I am a very quiet person, and most people are alarmed by my quietness. It’s simply that I don’t enjoy glib small talk, and really only find enjoyment in meaningful conversation. If your words are just filling silence for the sake of that, then what’s the point of speaking? It really detracts meaning from words if we constantly feel the need to speak.
    .-= Lynn´s last blog ..Corporate Consumer Culture =-.

  11. Sandra Lee says:

    You are offering such beautiful recommendations here. Thank you! I appreciate the suggestions to turn off the t.v. and the news, at least for awhile. Stillness is an important part of my meditation practice. I see it as the first step in meditation, but not the whole story nor the ultimate goal of spiritual practice. Nevertheless, it’s the first step and these exercises are a wonderful way to bring more stillness into one’s life.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..CSS upgrade and the Bueno theme =-.

  12. Katie says:

    Lovely word, lovely post. A friend was just telling me about how tense her body always is. Checking in with your body is something so many of us forget to do. She’s almost vibrating with distractions and movement. Stillness is what she needs. Simple, lovely advice Mary. I’ll pass it along to her. And a beautiful image to go with it.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..How to Ride a Steep Learning Curve =-.

  13. Rhonda Jones says:

    Beautiful post. As a Christian I practice many of these same techniques to relax and meditate on God. It was meditation integrated with the scriptures that helped me overcome years of depression. Like you, it is my passion to share the gift of meditation to Christians, which in many Christian communities is still taboo. If you get a chance please visit my website as well at http://www.thechristianmeditator.com.

  14. Damon says:

    When I was younger I used to get frequent headaches. Watching a hypnotist at a party gave me an idea to become more relaxed. I would lie on my bed, shut my eyes and repeat to my self what I had heard the hypnotist say: my face is relaxed, my eyes are relaxed, my mouth is relaxed, the back of my neck is relaxed, my shoulders are relaxed, and so on (similar to what you wrote). I would feel my muscles, especially the mouth, just “drop”. At the same time I would try to slow my breathing. And, it worked. This was years before I learned about relaxation techniques in psychology.

    As far as silence, young children make that a rare commodity…so I do it with them. If outside we watch life go by, if inside we “wewax” as my 5 year old would say. It’s not quite 5 minutes, but my goodness is it peaceful.

  15. Ami Mattison says:

    Thanks for this post, Mary. It feels like serendipity to read this as I’ve been thinking a lot about stillness and silence in my life. I work in silence (except for the sounds of the birds outside my open window). And when I drive in my car I have little tolerance for the radio. I’m trying to learn ways to engage in reading the news and staying abreast of current events (I feel this is an important way to connect with my social world) without letting those “ripples” become “waves” of emotional disturbance.

    I actually read your article yesterday and tried the first exercise when I went to bed last night. I was asleep before I reached my head!

    Thanks again!
    .-= Ami Mattison´s last blog ..Zen Mind, Writer’s Mind: Tips for a Zen Writing Practice =-.

  16. Mac_BetH says:

    5 Minutes doing nothing just realizing! That is a great tip! Thank you for that!

    I working the whole day on a computer and staying up walking around all 2 hours is a great possibility for me to get relaxed and thing on nothing! That is my way to get it done!

    best regards

    Matze

  17. […] 5. Learn to relax and slow down. […]

  18. Dr Paul Dyer says:

    Thank you for the peaceful article. I might also add the idea of going on short pilgrimages. Finding quiet, beautiful places close to nature, where you can spend a day or two alone in solitude. I took a three-day pilgrimage about two months ago, and the experience was so rewarding that I’m not committed to making it an annual event.

  19. Lilly says:

    I usually try deep breathing but I always forget to relax my muscles as you’ve said, many a nights I end up with soreness in my neck I just need to remind myself to relax one muscle and move on until completly relaxed.
    Lilly´s last blog post ..san antonio clubs

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