What’s not right about your life? You know that uncertain feeling you have? Is it an awareness that something is not right about how you are living? Maybe you’ve had an awakening to something specific or it is just a vague unease.
Whatever you’re feeling, you can find answers and gain clarity.
Slow down, stop and be present. In the stillness answers are found to questions asked.
Exploring that feeling of unease
Be still and enter your body’s felt experience. There you’ll hear and learn from its wisdom. The answers and direction for our lives have always been there for us. We’ve just not tuned in to hear them because we’re not present in our own lives. We’ve also probably underestimated how important our felt sensory experience is in figuring out how to create a life that is satisfying.
The good news is that you can come to know the life you need to have to feel satisfied, and not settle for the one you think you should have.
I’m Eric Russell, I am a Stillness Practitioner and well-being coach. I’ve been using stillness as a practice since my early childhood. It helped me find solid ground, gave me a way to reset myself and build the strength I needed to be safe in an unsafe world. I was that kid, physically and emotionally abused at home. I was harassed, bullied and ostracized at school, and looked down on for being a dark-skinned person in a world divided by skin color.
I took from those difficult experiences many things that have enabled me to stand in strength and to live a life that aligns with who I am. My practice in stillness has been a constant guide for me, and one that can positively impact you as well. Through stillness, you can be grounded in the present moment, and most important, come into alignment with the life you need to live. But first, let’s talk about why we aren’t present.
Being present in the present
What causes us to not be present in the moment and therefore not live in and through our lives?
The commentary that follows highlights problems we are likely aware of. However, we may not have seen them as combined factors and forces that intentionally and unintentionally cause us to be absent in the present moment and absentee landlords of our own lives.
- Focusing on the future (a future disorientation). In Jenny Odell’s book How to Do Nothing, she describes what she’s observed: that we are forward leaning. That is to say that we lean figuratively into a future that hasn’t happened yet, and in the present, we actively plan and execute toward it. It’s an orientation that can inhabit any aspect of our lives. We plan and save for retirement. We workout to become more fit and healthy. Our “to do” lists govern our daily activities from the routine to the extraordinary. We schedule our work lives for days, weeks, months and years in advance. And so it goes. We are dis-oriented from the present by our persistent unconscious lean into the future. No wonder it’s so hard to “Be Here Now” as the great spiritual teacher Ram Das encouraged us to be. How can we actually experience our lives if we aren’t here and now in them?
- Forgetting the past (eliminating the historic context for the present). The past is what we learn from. It gives meaning, understanding and context to the present, and informs the way forward. Our lives in this moment are the product of our experiences (our pasts). Despite how important the past is, the speed of advances (especially technology) are causing us to let go of the past so we can grab ahold of what’s coming. The result is a liminal state (confusion, dissatisfaction and disorientation) in and about the present. If you’ve ever stood in a room trying to remember why you were there, you’ve experienced how unnerving it is to be uncoupled from the past memory of why you were there. Psychologists call it the “doorway effect”. It illustrates perfectly when the past no longer holds us in the present. In the doorway effect it is believed that walking through open doors resets or blocks memory to make room for the creation of a new episode, event or experience. The reason for being in the room (the anchor to that present moment) is forgotten and replaced by the anticipation of what could be. The pace of change and our future orientation are powerful forces that pull us onward and push away the past leaving us unanchored from the present.
- Overemphasizing the mind (living in our heads). We’re truly on a path that overemphasizes our brain, mind and intelligence. This fixation on the mind and intelligence is embedded in our daily lives. We hear and use phrases like “evidenced-based”, “mindfulness”, “meditation”, “researched”, “science and scientific”, “data and data driven”, “technology”, “thoughtful”, “reasoned.” Through our thoughts we engage in all kinds of activities that take us anywhere but the present. We imagine, anticipate, rehearse, relive, remember, ponder, worry, fear, envision, etc. The mind is the speeding train that rapidly takes us to places that aren’t here and now. Even when we believe we’re focusing on what’s on going now, our minds are often off somewhere else. When we spend too much time in our minds, we’re not spending it here in the present.
- TDADD (Technology Driven Attention Deficit Disorder). We are living with constant distraction, ready to be yanked from the moment by our technology. Smartphones are chief among what distract us and take us out of the present. Heads down, no matter where we go or what activity we’re in (e.g., dinner table, restaurants, walking the dog, airplanes, supermarkets, driving, etc.) phones are ubiquitous with people looking at them, talking on them or typing on them. They distract us from being in the present even when we’re not using them. It’s our addiction to the dopamine rush that comes with every new email, text or like delivered by our mobile technology that drives our constant need to be with them. It’s also our growing dependence on them for everything from grocery shopping to getting directions to being at work through them that keeps us distracted by them. And with the projected growth in mobile devices (nearly 15 billion worldwide in 2021 or just under 2 for every human on the planet) it becomes even harder to escape their presence. With our devices taking us out of the very real present and into a sophisticated virtual reality that captivates our attention, what’s our incentive to be really present?
- Media commodifying and demanding our attention. Media in all of its forms draws us away from right now and into a more captivating experience. That is how the industry makes money. We fall prey to its lure and use it to escape from our lives. We aren’t present for hours, days, weeks and even months while we doom-scroll, game, binge watch, FaceBook, Twitter feed, 24-hour news watch, YouTube, and internet surf. You’ve no doubt found yourself suddenly awakened from an almost hypnotic state of screen watching only to discover that hours and not minutes have passed. The media industry has become adept and sophisticated at pulling us from right now because our attention has value. In Tim Wu’s book The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, he dives deep into the history and machinations of advertisers’ efforts to get our attention, hold it, and profit from it. The 2020 Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma pulls back the curtain to reveal how social media platforms work to monopolize our screen time and sell our attention to advertisers. The media industry and its technology allies are using increasingly subtle and sophisticated means to manipulate our behavior to stay in their virtual reality and keep us from our real lives.
What keeps us from being present is multifaceted and found in the ways we think, our priorities, the technology we use, how we entertain ourselves, in the profit models of businesses, and more.
However, there is a way to be present despite the pervasive effort to keep us distracted from our lives. We can reorient ourselves to be in our lives using stillness practice.
What is Stillness Practice?
Stillness Practice is a somatic experience that helps us:
- Be present;
- Better attune to and inhabit our bodies;
- Improve our interoception; and
- Experience living from the balanced integration of the body and mind.
The body is the tool to filter and interpret the world it senses and feels. Outcomes of stillness practice include strengthening our sensory acuity and the wholeness that arises from being sensorily connected to all that’s being felt.
Stillness enables us to feel the connection we have to what’s around us through our felt experience of it. The body is uniquely designed for experiencing. The human body has over 7 trillion nerves, that’s more than 7 trillion different ways we can sense and feel. When our body uses them in combination, we have an almost infinite number of ways to experience a sensation. Most of us know about the major central nervous system of the body. Humans also have the enteric nervous system located in our gut (also called the second brain). There are nerves in our organs, muscles and other tissues of the body that provide for interoception (internal self-monitoring). Taken together our body is a highly complex sensing and feeling organism. This suggests two things: that we have the ability to be highly attuned to any and everything we can sense; and that we are designed or evolved to be in our lives as sensing, feeling organisms.
In the practice of stillness, we deliberately still the body to be actively present in the body’s sensory experience. We connect to the present by attuning to and being in what our body is feeling and sensing in the present moment. When we are still it is much easier to feel and sense what is going on around us and in us. This places us squarely in the present moment experience. The body is always in the present. This makes it uniquely suited to anchor us in the moment. We might be carried off in our minds through imagination, thoughts, worries or anxiety, but the body stays put in the now. Therefore, we’re always held in the moment when we connect to any experience our body is having because those experiences always happen in the present.
Your body knows what it needs. In many aspects of our lives, we rely on what our body feels to determine what we eat, dress in, where we vacation, how we exercise and more. It’s how we make our way through life, until we override or ignore that natural direction. Perhaps that’s why we aren’t in our lives the way we need to be, or haven’t built into them what is most beneficial. When we tune into what we’re feeling and sensing, we’re better able to feel what the body needs and build that into our lives.
The goal of Stillness Practice is to help you be in your own body in a healthy present way. The outcome is this: In feeling what your body naturally aligns with, you’ll discover the elements that you intuitively need to build your life around and in. You can live the life that you need to have, not simply the one you want to have or think you should have.
Slow down, stop and be present, because in the stillness with yourself you’ll find the answers.
Want to get still, ask better questions and discover answers about what’s right for you in your life?
Don’t miss my live class: Slow Down to Create a Better Life, on February 16th at 7 PM EST to take your first step into the practice of stillness. Immerse yourself in the “flow” and experience the richness your life has to offer. Spaces are limited, register on EventBrite>
Slow down, get still, and have a much better life. The over 7 trillion nerves in the body suggest we’re built to experience life through what we feel and sense. Our hurried lives cause us to ignore nearly all of the body’s sensory input. If we slowed down, it’s possible to become immersed in the vast richness that life actually offers and live with better skill. In Stillness Practice we access life’s rich experiences through the body’s sensory input, and align our lives with the body’s natural wisdom.
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