Answers Fill The Stillness We Create

Struggling with big decisions? You may not be making the space necessary for those answers to arrive.

Every day I work with people who are in the throes of making difficult decisions like changing careers or relocating.

They come to me for help thinking through their options and working through their overwhelm. I guide them through a process of introspection, information gathering, and taking action.

But even with all the information at our fingertips and all the support by our side, making a difficult decision is still making a difficult decision. When the moment comes to push the button—to say yes or no—we still look for more information. Just a little more "something" that will help us decide if we're doing the right thing.

That's the moment when I just might say, "Stop everything."

You have all the information you need. You've done your due diligence. All that's left is to silence the mind and clear a space for the answer to arise.

A puzzle box can contain every single piece you need to create a beautiful picture, but those pieces can only be fitted together once your space is cleared. 

As a writer I regularly have days when the right word isn't coming to me. When a storyline hits a brick wall. Lately I've noticed that the less I try to force the answers I'm seeking, the more likely they are to appear. In fact, this happens so often now that one would think I'd become accustomed to it, but I'm amazed every single time.

When we're faced with big decisions we must do the work of seeking out information, exploring our options, and enlisting our supporters. But we must also create a space for the answers to arrive. A cluttered and racing mind is too full and too busy to let them in.

The answers you need will rise to greet the stillness that you create.

Source: Psychology Today: Our Answers Find Us In The Quiet We Create by Brad Waters

A Simple Relaxation Exercise

Photo by Brad Waters

Photo by Brad Waters

Without getting heavy into the why’s and how’s of mindfulness and visualization, I’d simply like to share a brief exercise you might try when you need a time out for relaxation. Whether you have three minutes or thirty, adapt this one to suit your time and space. Read through the exercise at least once and then practice the visualization.

1. Find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably for a few minutes. If you’re able, you might take off your shoes, slip into loose clothing, and stretch a bit to loosen up any tension you might be feeling.

2. Close your eyes and begin to take gradually deeper breaths that allow you to feel relaxation coming into your body. At this point you don’t need to be concerned with how deep, how many, or where the breaths are coming from. Just breathe.

3. Imagine that you’re sitting outdoors in a wide open space, where you’re seeing clouds overhead and hearing a light breeze around you. Sit in this place for as long as you wish, noticing the vast space that is so peaceful and natural. Engage your senses by noticing all that surrounds you. Feeling a lightness in knowing that you’re exactly where you need to be at this moment.

4. When thoughts come into your mind while you’re sitting, allow each thought to float through as though it’s one of the clouds you see in the sky. You don’t have to concern yourself with trying to get rid of your thoughts, or any pressure to attend to their message, just let them come in and out of your mind.

5. Think of your breath as though it’s the wind that’s gently blowing around you. Breathing in deeply, breathing out slowly, as though every breath is the wind that bends a blade of grass or rustles a leaf on a tree. Continue connecting with your surroundings with your gentle breath for as long as you wish.

6. At your own pace, when you feel relaxed and ready, bring yourself back to the space you’re sitting in. Gradually open your eyes to let in the light. Ground yourself in the space by noticing where your feet touch the floor or your back touches the chair. If you’d like, you might gently roll your shoulders, massage your feet, or rub your hands.

7. As you’re awareness shifts to your environment, you might set an intention for the rest of your day. Perhaps you’d like to say a prayer or express thoughts of gratitude. Then stand up gradually – making sure you have your balance – and take your next steps with this refreshed sense of relaxation.

Everyday Mindfulness Moment: “Sounds of Home”

Photo by brad waters

Photo by brad waters

A year ago I wrote an article about the hype surrounding the concept of mindfulness. All of the attention it receives can have the paradoxical effect of making us tired of hearing about it or stressed out that we’re not doing it right. For today, just know that mindfulness need not be concerned with hype or rights & wrongs. Mindfulness doesn’t require a special place and you don’t have to gear up with special clothing. Mindfulness is an aware and present state of being, to which we don’t have to ascribe judgement or value.

For today, try this simple idea to be more mindful of your sense of place. I call this “Sounds of Home” but it can be practiced anywhere. Start by finding a comfortable position where you can spend 15 to 2o minutes alone. You might  even set a timer on low volume.

Take several deep but comfortable breaths and settle into your space. Then, simply notice the sounds of your environment. If other thoughts arise—like your to-do list for the day—just notice them as they arise and let them pass. Keep bringing your attention back to the present moment of listening and noticing the space you’re in. You’ll likely notice familiar and unfamiliar sounds, but you don’t have to label them or attend to them. You’ve given yourself permission to sit for this time without answering the phone if it rings, without getting angry at the dog if it barks. You’re realizing that as much as you don’t have control of many aspects of your environment, you do have control over how you react to them. You notice how quickly fleeting sounds really are, yet how strongly our minds have been conditioned to label, judge, and react to them. A car horn is just a car horn until we allow our reactions to ascribe to it the story of how we can never seem to find peace and quiet. Yet even when we can’t find quiet, we can practice being at peace by staying fully present in the moment.

I share more tips for everyday mindfulness in my small ebook, Cultivating Your Everyday Mindfulness.