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The Power of Stillness

How doing nothing can boost productivity

“2017 — Road Trip — Calgary — Laid Flat” by Ted’s photos — Returns in December is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Said my yoga teacher, as we entered into shavasana or dead pose — an asana meant for complete body, mind, and soul relaxation, depending on how deeply you enter it.

Earlier the same day, in a radio conversation, I had heard the Hindi words “sthirta” and “thairaav” used to describe a person and state of being. Both these Hindi words have a similar meaning of being calm and equipoised in one’s emotions.

Why is stillness in the body and mind so important for a yogi, or, the quality of thairaav so admired in a person? Thairaav probably has no accurate equivalent in English, but can be loosely translated as a person speaking or acting in a measured graceful manner, with sensitivity to one’s self and the other.

Stillness is not just essential for inner peace, it is essential for our existence. Because, stillness is the opposite of action — every action must be followed by stillness, just like stillness must be followed by action.

In yoga, when one meditates, one is often asked to observe not just the inhalation and exhalation of one’s breath, but even the pauses in between…an exercise that makes one aware of the stillness in movement even in one’s breath.

But, why are these pauses, or moments of active meditation, so essential? What do they do to us in our everyday lives, and, how can we enter them more frequently to become more productive?

Here are some benefits of stillness and meditation, and techniques you can use to help get into the state.

Detach from the mind

Most meditative practices help us distance ourselves from our overactive mind. By stepping back and observing your breath, or deliberately reducing your actions, you are consciously shutting off your mind (which keeps telling you to do something), and instead responding to your soul’s innate need for peace and silence.

So, whenever possible, even when at your desk, follow the pattern of your breath for sometime… Follow the inhalations and exhalations, and feel yourself drift into a more serene state of mind.

Experience rejuvenation

After any deep meditation, or moments of complete relaxation, where perhaps you’re just observing nature, listening to the birds, or feeling the cool breeze on your body, you slowly start letting go of any tiredness within and gain renewed energy.

So, at any time of the day, if you feel too tired, you don’t need to go into deep sleep. You can, instead, adopt a meditative exercise that works for you; do it for a few minutes, and notice how refreshed your body and mind is at the end of it.

Feel heightened alertness

Alertness reduces because the mind has been overused. As a result, you miss out on what you could have seen or heard or thought of, but didn’t. Meditation or conscious stillness is a great way to create increased awareness.

Every now and then, take your mind to a recurring sound in the distance. This could be a bird chirping, a fan whirring, or some construction work. Follow that sound for a few minutes without letting it go. When you get back to work, you will see that the ability to hold that sound increases your concentration and alertness, making you work with greater focus than before.

Switch the emotion

It’s often been said that when you’re very angry, close your eyes and count till 10. Better still, count 100 backwards, and see how the anger slowly dissipates. This is the power of any active meditation, or the power of staying still and not reacting.

Just like action is followed by stillness, every emotion will be followed by another emotion soon… Emotions are transient like all states of being. The key is to not let any one particular emotion consume you, but to patiently wait till it changes. Patience can be built by meditation…count numbers backward, focus on a spot in the distance, or light a candle and observe its flame

Surrender to the now

This is probably the biggest reward of meditation — you stop worrying about what has happened in the past, or what will happen in the future, and come back into the present or the now.

Meditation is a space in which all your planning and scheduling comes to an end… A state of complete surrender, where you allow your entire being to experience the process without interruptions. For me, shavasana works best to achieve this state. At the end of the day, when most of your work is done, but still a lot unfinished, lying down on my yoga mat, dead to the world, with zero movements, any desire to do more is washed away.

The day is over, you did what you could, and tomorrow is another day, which will take care of itself. But, for now, this state of doing nothing is pure bliss.

Like my yoga teacher always says at the end of every shavasana, “It’s a process which helps you get in touch with the soul itself.” But, while many may say the concept of soul is abstract, one definitely does get a glimpse of it in that state of stillness.

So, to achieve a certain stillness in your being, both from the outside and inside, use any tool of meditation, and watch how it impacts both your productivity and personality, making you speak and act with greater levels of mindfulness and sensitivity…perhaps, adding a bit of thairaav to your life!

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Ritika (Bajaj) Lalwani

Writer-editor, seeker, yoga enthusiast, tarot reader, voyager… and more