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finding stillness in a busy world

this post is inspired by a book called 'the things you can see only when you slow down' written by haemin sunim. this book, if you are not familiar with it, is all about how to be calm in a busy world. sunim himself is a zen monk who so generously shares his wisdom with us through 8 chapters touching on rest, relationships and spirituality. the essence of his teachings are about how we can find peace within ourselves whilst experiencing modern life and he offers a gentle reminder of the strength and joy that come from slowing down.

as a society, we appear to have developed a negative view of rest and slowing down. we have managed to normalise being constantly on the go, dealing with 10 things at once, working late and hardly getting any sleep (to name a few). it's no wonder that as a species we are feeling more stressed and anxious than ever before. that being said, we can develop techniques to take control of our experience and feel all the better for it. to quote sunim himself, "the world moves fast, but that doesn't mean we have to".

so, you might be reading this and thinking you don't have time to find stillness or a moment of quiet in your day and honestly, some days will be like this and we have to be accepting of it.

the good news is that stillness never leaves us! it's within us all the time and is something we can tune into quickly, whenever and wherever we may need to. what this 'tuning in' looks like is entirely up to you.

it's really important that you find techniques that work for you and this may be a case of trial and error to begin with. if you are willing to put some time aside to get started, you will reap the benefits for years to come. we have put together some ideas for you below;

breathing exercises our breath is the most powerful tool when it comes to slowing down but not many of us are using it to its full advantage.

when we are out in the world living our lives, we are on high alert as we are naturally hard wired to spot threats in our environment.

connecting to our breath can help to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system helping to reduce stress, reduce anxiety and lower our heart rate.

next time you feel stressed, give the following breathing exercise a try; place both hands on the lower abdomen with your fingers touching (feel free to forgo this if you are out and about) take a deep breath in through the nose for a count of 4 seconds and focus on inhaling into the belly, feeling your hand rise as you inhale exhale for a count of 8 seconds feeling your belly deflate like a balloon repeat as necessary this can be done anywhere - at home, at work, even on the bus!

the key to this is making your exhale longer than your inhale and taking the breath deep into the belly, as this is what stimulates our vagus nerve.

meditation practice meditation can be difficult to start, but is well worth the practice for the benefits it can bring. speaking from personal experience, 5 to 10 minute guided meditations are a great place to begin as they are more manageable and realistic if you are short on time.

the aim of meditation is not to stop thoughts or feelings from arising but to simply observe them, without trying to react or change them.

you can also incorporate your breath into your practice, bringing yourself back to your breath whenever you feel your mind drifting, to keep you in a state of stillness.

there are many apps and videos online that offer meditation practices, my personal favourites for free guided meditations are;

arianna elizabeth practicing meditation has a wide range of benefits - it helps us to practice being present in a world full of distractions, helps us gain clarity on our thoughts and emotions improving our emotional wellbeing, helps us to become more self aware (that 'tuning in' we mentioned above) leading us to be more compassionate with ourselves and others, and it can also aid sleep as it stimulates (with practice) relaxation in the mind and body.

it's also another tool that can be done whenever and wherever in a way that suits you.

mindfulness there are plenty of opportunities in our day to be mindful and cultivate stillness, whether we realise it or not. what do you tend to do when you are waiting for the bus or train?

what do you tend to do when you are waiting for your morning coffee to be made?

what do you tend to do when you are eating your lunch? no doubt that at least 90% of us pull out our distraction device to fill the gap - even just a few seconds of distraction is better than being still with ourselves, right? but what if in those small moments of our day we started to notice our surroundings, notice the smells, notice the sights and sounds around us instead? this opens up a short moment of time to relish in stillness and just be.

the more we add these subtle moments into our days, the more we strengthen the connection with ourselves, helping us to feel less overwhelmed and more in balance. mindfulness is another very simple and easy technique to incorporate into your life and is especially easy to practice whilst out and about.

more information about mindfulness and its benefits can be found here.

we hope from reading this you are encouraged to try finding stillness in your life. it's something that can really benefit us all and help support our emotional and mental wellbeing as we navigate this busy, modern world. we would love to know what techniques you might try, or if you are familiar to these practices, we invite you to share what already works for you in the comments below. stay well,

sophie x

founder of the conscious collective

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