Finding Happiness in Stillness

This is just a short post about my journey from being constantly on the go to allowing myself time to slow down and be still.

I was that child signed up to all the after school activities which included dance, soccer, karate, skiing, sailing, violin, etc. As I grew up, school became more demanding and classes ended later. I went to a private school and the level of academic competition was quite high. In our final year to prepare us for our final exams we had exams every Wednesday from 2-6 pm. Classes would finish anywhere between 330-5:30 during the week while starting at 8:30, and I lived about 30-40 minutes away by bus. Once I arrived home it was dinner then homework or depending on the evening it was one of those after school classes. On top of that I was class president for the last four years of school, was on several committees, and was on the school soccer team, which evidently took up time after classes.

This on the go lifestyle translated into my physical attributes, where even when sitting in class I was playing with a pen between my fingers, rocking my foot back and forth, or just overall not able to sit still. To say I lived a busy life couldn't even cover how I felt, and how most children to adolescents feel these days. I was so used to being on to the go and busy that I didn’t even know what it was to just do nothing. I had been programmed to always have something on the go, and when I got to university and had Fridays off I didn’t know what to do with myself!

I realized after high school my inability to calm my mind or to find stillness. I didn’t even know what it meant to be still- truly. Two memories stand out in my mind, which demonstrate my inability to be still, and both revolve around my first encounters with yoga and meditation.
The first was with my sailing coach. We had just had a rough training session and the team was feeling angry and overwhelmed. My coach took us into an air-conditioned room in the clubhouse and we turned off the lights and we started breath work. My coach was also a yoga instructor so she guided us very thoughtfully through this, and we entered into a more calming, still space, however, I was not able to let myself be still. My mind was racing, analyzing my on water performance, to what I was going to have for dinner, to who knows what else. The other instance was in my first year of university where I attended a Yoga class and I remember thinking I could never just sit here and “zen out”. I had things to do, places to be, things to study, papers to write, etc.

Fast forward to now where I crave those moments of stillness, and they bring me so much joy and peace. How do I find stillness? I will say meditate, but my meditation practice is unique to myself. I find stillness within nature. I am grateful to live in a beautiful city (Edinburgh UK) where there are so many beautiful spots to sit and just be still.

My favourite way to be still is to sit by the water, put down my phone, and just listen to the water. Water is a very important element to me, probably linked to growing up sailing. It is so tightly woven in with my mood that being by the water will cheer me up right away, or even having a shower will do the trick.

When I am in those moments of stillness, I am not actively trying to do anything. I am just letting my mind/body do what they want, and most often than not my mind will slowly slow down without too much effort, and my breath will join in.  I find being in nature just brings out that peace and stillness naturally (I had to). There are studies out there that show that you are more creative when out in nature, so if you are in need of a new perspective on a problem - go for a walk outside around nature!

I am by no means here to tell you to sit down by the water and be still. Nope. I don't think everyone’s minds work the same way, nor do I believe stillness is for everyone! Personally, it works, and I have given myself permission to take those moments in the day to myself and practice stillness. You have the permission to practice whatever makes you happy and brings you peace, so allow yourself some self-care time daily.  

With happy vibes,

Mary-Catherine xx