Step One: Get Still

Why Become Still?
In Oprah once emphasized the importance of seeking inner stillness as the key factor for "hearing" our best lives calling to us. Of course, if we can't get still, our lives still communicate with us, but they often have to shout with such deafening voices that we can't ignore them. Our true selves are always whispering instructions about what we should do next, whether that's changing the world or just changing our attitudes. If we're still enough to hear our own inner voices at this subtle, almost silent level, we tend to choose the course through life that feels most blessed and least traumatic.

Obstacles to Getting Still
If you've recently suffered pain, loss or great confusion, becoming still may feel threatening. Many of us sustain a high level of mental "noise" so that we won't fully experience the difficult emotions of fear, anger or sadness. Getting still requires being willing to experience these feelings without doing anything in the short run. You don't have to do anything in the stillness except fully acknowledge what you are feeling, without judgment. You'll find that if you can sit still with strong emotion for just a few minutes, even the worst emotional pain rises, crests, breaks and recedes like a wave on the surf. Staying mentally and physically still as we watch this process gives us the experience and courage to face whatever our lives may bring. Here's how to get still, if you're unfamiliar with the process.

How to Get Still
Fortunately, stillness is not a feat of mental discipline available only to meditation masters. It begins with concrete, physical behavior. The first is simply to sit or lie down without moving; the second is to breathe. This is so simple (though not always easy) that it's hard to believe how central it is to inner peace and the ability to navigate safely through life. Neuroscientists now know that breathing patterns change our brain states, allowing us to create—simply by inhaling and exhaling—the calm and peace necessary to survive difficult circumstances.

Try this now: Sit with your spine as straight as possible. Imagine that you're suspended from a string attached to the crown of your head; then picture that string dropping down through your spinal column as a thin, bright beam of light. Keep your back and neck aligned so the light finds its way through the core of your spinal column.

Next, breathe in so deeply that your entire torso expands outward. Fill your lungs, but also drop your diaphragm so that your belly expands (you can suck in your gut again as soon as the exercise is over). Completely empty your body of air when you exhale, then watch your body spontaneously decide when and how fast to inhale again. Continue to watch this process until you realize that you are not so much breathing as "being breathed." Your body knows its right pattern of oxygenation—you don't have to figure it out or do anything to make it happen.

Watch your body breathe seven or eight times, allowing yourself to observe any emotion or thought that comes to mind, without trying to stop it. You'll soon see that the mind thinks the way the lungs breathe—on its own. As you notice this, you will have achieved a measure of distance from both body and mind. You will be in the still place at the center of consciousness from which your true self is always whispering to you.


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