The Skill of Being Still

“aaand another one rides the bus…”

The other day, I am sitting on the bus on my way home minding my own business as I usually do. Yet I am drawn to observe the erratic behavior of the gentleman sitting in front of me. A gentleman who we shall call, Homer. It looks as if Homer’s mind and fingers are possessed by mystic, dark forces. Something out of an aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.

He can’t stop flickering with his Apple phone. Nothing new there. Sometimes you need to get work done and when in a pinch a smartphone can act as a vehicle for productivity. I get that. But it is not as if he is doing something productive with the god-like device. Rather, he follows the cycle of:

check email – check messages – check email – use the calculator – check messages – check Facebook – check Whatsapp – check the news – check email – do another round of calculation – go back to beginning and repeat it all, for what seems like a times eternity.

He’s not doing a thorough research on something that he needs urgent information on. No, it is a quick 2-3 seconds with each app before moving on to the next. On few occasions he only opens the app, closes it immediately and repeats the same for two or three apps before “settling” on one app for a maximum five seconds.

I am not exaggerating for the sake of a story. This is an honest account of what my eyes are witnessing. It’s not as if he was receiving any messages or emails, yet he is on a constant lookout for them. As if he is searching for some form of sign from a world beyond of his.

It was both amusing and sad to see it all unfolding. He was looking for a constant arousal, constant stimulant to react to something that was sent his way over the wireless wavelengths. He was looking for a distraction, something to react to.  

Not sure if Homer realised that this was happening, I doubt it. This has become our norm. It’s everywhere.

 

We have lost the skill of being still (yes, it rhymes)

Being still, the part of the doing where we are not doing anything is hard. That’s why we resort to smartphone slavery, nail biting, smoking or social drinking. These activities calm us down when we feel uncomfortable. They make us look busy and take our mind away from the fact we have to stand on our own and be uncomfortable with ourselves.  

You doubt this? Next time you are waiting for your morning latte at a cafe, look around you. How many people can you see doing nothing? None. There’s the blistering blue light of phones, tablets, laptops, ereaders and whatnot. See how long you can stand still with your arms hanging relaxed on each side. Don’t check the phone or cross your arms. Just stand. It’s uncomfortable.

Deep in the woods, arms dangling like you just don’t care

 

Why should you care

Because life is better when you are comfortable with yourself. If you always distract yourself by being surrounded with minor busyness, activities, or other people because you are not comfortable with who you are, how can you expect to ever find contentment with what you’ve got?

The other people or busyness stops you from reflecting with what is going on with you. Some of us daze through life without ever being comfortable with our own company. Just because we are afraid what we might find if we stop, look and listen. So we surround ourselves with “stuff”, both living and dead.

I believe that happiness and contentment begins by first knowing oneself. Instead of randomly piling more things, people and activities into our lives, knowing oneself guides us to be selective.

Your workouts will be more productive as you are in tune with your body. You’ll learn the greatest skill there is to training, auto-regulation. Your eating habits improve for the same reason. It’ll even help you to know when you’ve had enough of Highland Park and it’s time to call it a night (or lunch).

Simply put, you will know yourself and are confident in making decisions when life throws both good, and the bad shit, at your way.

 

What can you do

When you train, train. How does the weight feel today? Which muscles are you working when pressing overhead? Is this a day to go heavy or to take it easy, as the Eagles sang?

When you eat, eat. Focus on biting and tasting the food, place the fork down between mouthfuls and check in with yourself and the feelings of fullness. Do I really feel like eating dessert? Does this meal require more ketchup?

When you have dinner with your family or friends, be present and throw your phone somewhere where you can’t reach it. Don’t always turn on the TV (unless a new episode of Game of Thrones is out).

I guarantee that you will have a better relationship with, not only yourself, but with those close to you. Just because you sit next to someone and eat dinner together doesn’t mean that you are close in any other way except physically. Emotionally you might as well be in Zambia and Switzerland. And you know how hard it is to share your meal with a person who lives in Switzerland.

When on your own, realizing that you are doing something while doing it is being mindful. If you scoff down food while checking Facebook, watching the news and YouTubing old Jackass highlight reels, and realize it, you are being mindful. You are mindful about what is happening at that very moment. Start small and start inching your way closer to doing a single task at a time.

Then, once you’ve practiced in safe space for a while, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can experiment with masturdating. The king and the queen of all solitude activities.

Risking sounding all spiritual but what the hell, learning to sit with yourself in solitude is a path to inner peace. And when there’s peace in you it reflects out to your work, relationships and all of that good stuff that can sometimes get chaotic. It even helps you to keep calm during the times of unavoidable chaos.

This revolution starts by you dangling your arms by your sides. And it will not be televised.

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