There also exists a sleeping sickness of the soul. Its most dangerous aspect is that one is unaware of its coming. That is why you have to be careful … You should realize that your soul suffers if you live superficially. People need times in which to concentrate, when they can search their inmost selves. It is tragic that most men have not achieved this feeling of self-awareness. And finally, when they hear the inner voice they do not want to listen anymore. They carry on as before so as not to be constantly reminded of what they have lost. But as for you, resolve to keep a quiet time … Then your souls can speak to you without being drowned out by the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
– Albert Schweitzer
If you learn to preserve quiet in your day, you will find, that eventually, that quiet will preserve you. I have had quiet at the top of my list since my early twenties when I spent five years at an institute of yoga and meditation in the US and India. It changed my life. In fact, I discovered a new life, a subterranean sea of consciousness from which I learned to draw strength and spiritual nourishment. When I found this place within me, I wondered what everyone wonders who finds it. “What took me so long? Was this here all the tame and I just missed it? And how I can get more of it? How can I structure my life to spend more time here and have this place infiltrate my body, mind and spirit so it actually becomes part of my day to day life?”
Through daily, somewhat disciplined baby steps, something wonderful inched its way into my being: I began to crave quiet, to need it, to naturally build it into my day so that I could bring my moods into balance and sense the goodness and beauty of life. I didn’t have to make any huge changes because quiet was doing that for me; it was transforming the life I already had into something newer, deeper and more satisfying.
Our urge to become quiet and connect with a higher place within ourselves or a higher good is literally programmed into our biology. In the same way as our DNA propels us “naturally” to breathe, digest, walk and talk, we have an inner need to reach “up” and “in”, to connect with our inner being and a force greater than ourselves.
ThoughtsHere’s what worked for me. Initially, I have to admit, I had to spend a lot of hours doing atha yoga and meditating. That sort of carved this habit into my neurological wiring. I needed to develop the capacity to, if you will, tolerate the intensity of inner quiet. The two things that helped most here were regulating my breathing and allowing my thoughts to float by me rather than getting mentally involved with them or trying to control them.
Feelings Secondly, I had to “sit with” the kind of honest emotion that inner quiet made me calm and still enough to notice. I had to resist my bodily urge to jump up when my emotions became intense. What helped most was remembering that feelings are just feelings, they come and they go. Eventually, I found that it took much more energy to resist and run from my feelings than to simply surrender to them and allow them to play out their course, to experience them without getting stuck in them. This process of simply feeling my feelings brought forward parts of me that I had hidden away and thought were gone. But they weren’t, they remained within me either as numb places that created strange, anxious barriers between me and me or as a kind of frozen vitality, energy that was sort of glued in place and thus unavailable for me to use.
Once I could experience and make some sense of these feelings rather than numb them out, they found a kind of balance within me. They began to fuel my own creativity and passion in a way that helped to propel me forward rather than throw me off track. What the stillness did for me was to allow that feeling to come slowly forward while my thinking self observed, ordered and made sense of it. I felt more whole, mature and in charge of myself. I could be clear-headed instead of fogged up. Emotions didn’t come out of nowhere; I had some sense of my own inner being and my own personality make up.
A Short Cut: Achieving Quiet Fast
You can get quiet in literally 90 seconds if you learn to follow your breath. Quieting the breath quiets the heart. And because the blood pumping from the heart is life to our organs, brain and muscles, calming the heart creates inner quiet in body and mind. Deep breathing produces what’s called “the relaxation response” — a physiological state that is exactly the opposite of stress, a state that reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the heart. Not only does this create feelings of peace and calm in our minds, it creates them in our bodies as well.
Mentally disengage from your surroundings for a moment.
If possible, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath.
Breathe in and out simply and easily, inhaling a sense of peace and relaxation and exhaling tension and inner noise.
Repeat this process anywhere from 90 seconds to several minutes.
If you do this simple process several times a day, you will begin to develop a reservoir of inner quiet from which you can draw a sense of relaxation throughout your day. Quiet is free, non- fattening and legal. And so nourishing to body, mind and spirit. Why not begin… now.