Time-out for stillness each day: A Careful Nursing New Year's Resolution

As the beginning of 2015 approaches, many of us will be thinking of making New Year's resolutions; promises to ourselves on ways to enhance our life. So, here is a suggestion for Careful Nursing – to take at least five minutes of timeout for stillness each day. Considering the Careful Nursing understanding of the human person, our professional commitment to protect and foster healing in the people we care for, and the busy, stressful circumstances in which we mostly practice, this resolution could be life-enhancing all round.

What is stillness?

The word stillness derives from Old European root words meaning to become motionless or silent. To be still means to stop, to quieten, to calm. Synonyms for stillness include tranquillity, quietude, serenity, peacefulness, calmness, and peace of mind. Stillness is associated with being free in oneself from disturbance, agitation, and commotion. Simply, stillness is being quiet in one's mind and doing nothing. It is just being.

Stillness is well known to be associated with a range of Western and Eastern spiritual traditions where it is considered to be a way of helping us become more aware of the inner spiritual dimension of our lives. In some traditions it facilitates an intuitive sense of a divine presence in our lives; of an Infinite Transcendent Reality.

Stillness is often, but not always, associated with silence. We can create times of silence which can help us experience stillness. But, we also need to be able to experience inner stillness even when we are surrounded by many demands and much activity and noise, especially in our practice settings.

In Careful Nursing we are concerned with stillness in its spiritual sense. We know from our philosophy to view each human being as a unitary person with two distinguishable realities, an outward life of body and senses and an inward life of mind, spirit and communion with Infinite Transcendent Reality. We still ourselves as a unitary person, but our stillness is experienced mainly in our inward life.

Why stillness?

Stillness opens us to a greater awareness of our inward life and its mysterious source of our spirituality. It allows us to nurture and tend awareness of our inward life which is often completely overshadowed by our focus on our outward life. By developing awareness of our inward life we can come to better understand how it merges with and strengthens our outward life.

By spending at least five minutes in stillness each day we can, over time, naturally draw more on the resources of our inward life so that our outward and inward lives come into balance. In doing this, we develop and maintain a calmer, more alert and astute perspective generally, but particularly when we are in busy, stressful practice situations.

Commit to your stillness resolution

Take some time to sit quietly and think about your resolution to take at least five minutes of time-out each day to be still. Think about its meaning and value for you. It's our values that motivate us to do things. Be aware of the strength of your resolution. Choose a symbol or sign that will remind you of it each day. It could be an image of a colour or shape placed somewhere where you will be sure to see it. It could be a picture of a flower, or tree, a mountain or the ocean placed on your windowsill. It could be a coloured sticky dot or other shape placed near your washbasin or on your computer. It could be a small plant that represents stillness to you. Each time you see it you will be reminded of your stillness resolution. 

How to practice stillness

Select a time of the day that suits you best; a time that feels most natural to you to be still. Many find the morning a good time, before becoming caught up in daily activities. Or you may be an 'evening person', in terms of taking time for yourself.

Select a place that is conducive to being still and that you can be in each day. Somewhere quiet, if possible, where you can sit comfortably with your back straight and feet flat to the floor.

You may wish to select a timer that will alert you to when the five minutes, or longer, is past. Or you may wish to just judge this for yourself.

Follow a pattern. The following pattern is suggested but you could modify it to suit yourself.

Sit comfortably in your chair, loosen any tight clothes, let your hands rest on your lap and place your feet flat on the floor.

Close your eyes, and take some slow deep breaths. Be aware of the flow of your breath in and out of the centre of yourself.

Be aware of any areas of tension or tightness you might be holding in your body. Do an inner check of your feet, legs, bottom, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, face and head. If you are aware of any tension or tightness anywhere, imagine that as you breathe in, your breath flows into that area and as you breathe out again any tightness or tension flows out with the flow of your breath.

Continue to just be aware of the flow of your breath in and out of the centre of yourself. This is like an inner watching in your mind's eye of the flow of your breath in and out. Be aware of any thoughts or worries in your mind; just notice them and let them go.

Continue to just be aware of and watch the flow of your breath in and out of the centre of yourself. As you breathe in and out imagine that each breath in flows all the way into your lower abdomen before it turns to flow out again.

As you continue to breathe in and out watch in your mind's eye for the inner place at the centre of yourself between the end of each breathe in and the beginning of its flow out again.

Let yourself be as aware as possible of your inner stillness; the quiet and calm which is always at the centre of yourself. Let yourself be really aware of your inner stillness so that you can remember how it feels when you wish to. 

When your time is up just open your eyes and continue on with your activities.

As you take this time of stillness each day, you will find that over time a sense of stillness, quietude and calmness will grow in you. You'll begin to take it everywhere with you and it will influence all that you do.

All best wishes for the new year,

Therese Meehan 

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