What is inner stillness?
The familiar smell of chlorine rises up to my nostrils. Calm waters, barely a ripple disturbing their pristine surface.
A sudden liquid cold rushes from feet to chest, then automation takes over, stroke after stroke, counting the lengths, maintaining a relaxed, even speed all the while. At one with the water, nothing else matters.
This is my time of inner stillness.
Mind over matter:
It’s been 9 years since I have swum. Yet nowadays, hampered by ill-health and unable to swim with the physical body, I can still reconnect to those feelings; recreate the experience; be in its every moment in my mind’s eye. I swear I can even smell the faint scent of chlorine!
This is not as unusual as you may think. Many sports people use ‘mental rehearsal’ visualization before competing, and scientific research has shown the effective power which visualization has on the brain. They have found that the brain does not distinguish between actually doing something and imagining doing it. A 2004 scientific study in Cleveland reported on the increase in muscle power (by as much as 35%) gained after 12 weeks of mentally visualizing muscle contractions.
Inner Stillness—the soul connection:
For many people, their time of inner stillness is also when they connect with the Creator. Personally, I find my inner stillness by reliving this happy memory of being in the swimming pool. This is an example of mindfulness meditation, a time when we allow ourselves to be in the present moment. You don’t have to be a spiritual person to do mindfulness meditation; you don’t have to want to connect with God. Even if you practice this simple (or similar) meditation exercise solely to reduce stress during a busy, rushed day, then your body and mind will thank you.
The power of mindfulness meditation:
Research has shown that regular mindfulness meditation changes the way the mind reacts to previous and future stress. Dr Rebecca Gladding in her article in This is your brain on meditation states that “your ability to ignore sensations of anxiety is enhanced as you begin to break that connection between the unhelpful parts of the Me Center of the brain and the bodily sensation/fear centers.” The findings go on to say that regular meditation also helps to form stronger connections between other parts of the brain, meaning that when you experience bodily sensations—such as pain—you can view them more rationally, from a less anxious, more detached viewpoint, and just let them drift away.
Suffice to say, mindfulness is not some mumbo-jumbo, new-age, alternative hippy-culture thing (does anyone still think like that?). It is a scientifically-proven technique which is so important to our overall well-being (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual)!
Over to you:
The key is to practice your inner stillness often; imprint it as a new, positive habit in your mind. Remember you can choose any calming, repetitive activity—painting, running, walking your favourite forest trail and so on—that you can easily recreate in your mind’s eye, using the senses to recall all the details. This will help to bring you to a state of inner peace.
About the Author:
Anita Neilson is an author, spiritual poet and blogger. A former teacher, she writes for many mind, body, spirit and chronic illness publications. Anita has Fibromyalgia and M.E. and aims to show that everyone can make a contribution to the world, regardless of any limitations they may have. Her book, Acts of Kindness from your Armchair, is available from your preferred online retailer.