At the beginning of this quarantine, I thought the situation would create the perfect conditions to settle into this stillness... but I was wrong. Though society as we know it stilled, the advice given to many has been "keep busy." My mind kept chattering and I found myself oddly busier than ever.
It was after a dumbfounding three weeks of hustle and bustle in the comfort of my own home that I realized I needed to take ownership of my own stillness. The world's stillness wasn't going to automatically create mine - that's my job. Whether the external, societal world is moving fast or slow, finding moments of stillness is always something to strive for.
Stillness is the place from which we can listen, from which we can create and from which we can find clarity. When the mind quiets and the body stops moving, the spirit can talk, the feelings can display. We spend a lot of time outside of ourselves or so deep in our monkey-minds that we hardly stop to really see what's inside.
Here are 4 of my favorite breathing tools for finding stillness:
1. Slow + Quiet Breath
Begin breathing through your nose. Slow your breath down as much as you can. Slow it down so much until the breath is nearly silent. Elongate and quiet every inhale and every exhale. Keep your awareness on your breath as you continue this breathing for at least one minute. Notice how much you've slowed down.
My teacher davidji teaches this breathing technique that is yes, 16-seconds long. He says, "the moment you realize you’re ruminating... close your eyes and watch your breath as you take a long, slow, deep breath in. Watch it go down into your belly. And when it gets there, hold the breath in to the count of four and continue to watch it as it sits inside. Then, release it and observe the exhale as it moves up your chest, into your throat and back out through your nostrils. And then hold the breath out and witness it as it dissipates into the air. That’s in to the count of 4; hold to the count of 4; release it to the count of 4; and hold it out to the count of 4. All the while watching it, witnessing it, observing it. Then open your eyes, breathe normally and move on."
3. Breath Retention
Breath retention has been practiced by yogis and spiritual practitioners alike. The idea is taking a still, quiet, pause allows oneself to connect to deeper pieces of the self and even source energy.
Try the 4-7-8 technique.
Begin by inhaling through the nose to the count of four. Hold the breath for seven seconds seconds. Exhale the breath out through the nose or mouth for eight seconds. Repeat about five times (or more). Really notice that stillness when the breath is held.
4. Still-Point Breathing
Many breathing practices and meditation ask for attention on the breaths themselves to calm and center the mind. Though this is incredibly effective, a great way to access deeper stillness is to bring your attention to the pauses between your inhales and your exhales.
Begin breathing normally through your nose. After a few rounds of breath, begin to bring your awareness to the moment between your in-breath and your out-breath. You can even label this pause, "pause," or "still-point," silently in your mind each time it happens. Continue to do so as long as you'd like. I recommend at least two full minutes.
There's no need to elongate this transitionary pause, but if you'd like to play around with doing so, you may.
Try one, try all. Find stillness, find clarity, find peace.
Let me know how it goes for you in the comments below!