Stealing Stillness


Imagine you’re holding a tiny, frail, stunned, yet adorable endangered species in your hands. (You get to imagine what this small critter looks like.)

The point is, you are waiting for the creature to come to its senses and fly or walk away. If you get tense, if you try to hurry the process at all, if you are anything but still and calm for an extended period of time, the small animal will stay in a stunned and frozen state. You will thereby remain obligated to hold it endlessly. You will be, in essence, trapped.

If, however, you can sit still, remain patient and quiet for an extended moment, the animal will sense this. It will then begin a slow recovery process, eventually waking by itself. At which point, it will leave your hands. You’ll be a hero. You’ll be free to go and do as you please.

 

Now rate yourself on the following scale:

How confident are you that you can still yourself and be patient long enough for the stunned creature to fully recover and move on?

Check the box by the statement that best matches your confidence:

□ I am not confident that I will be able to stay quiet and still long enough for the full recovery.

□ I am somewhat confident that I will be able to stay quiet and still enough for the animal to fully recover.

□ I am quite confident that I will be able to be patient, quiet and still enough for the creature to fully recover.

 

If you checked the first box (indicating low confidence), you may find yourself within a growing mass of people. You may be, like many individuals, grappling with one or more “modern day” experiences displayed in these three examples:

 

High Functioning Anxiety

Dr. Joseph Mercola is an alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician. He recently published a blog stating, “Anxiety is the new depression, with more than half of all American college students reporting anxiety. Recent research shows anxiety—characterized by constant and overwhelming worry and fear—is now 800 percent more prevalent than all forms of cancer.”

For the untrained eye, High Functioning Anxiety may be hard to spot. On the surface it looks “normal,” presenting as calm and collected on the surface with thoughts churning and burning on the inside. For these folks, much of the day is characterized by restlessness and/or persistent negative chatter, which can rise up on the hour, every hour. Often, physical manifestations can be a tight jaw or muscle tension.

iDisorder

Do you have trouble staying focused? Do tasks that should take about 30 minutes take you an hour to complete? Are you frequently, if not constantly, checking your computer or mobile device? Did you answer yes to two or more of these questions? If so, you might be suffering from iDisorder.

This disorder is the topic of Larry Rosen’s book, iDisorder. With his research as the backdrop, psychologist and educator Rosen explains how we’ve become a population that is rarely focused. Many of us find it difficult to disengage from our devices for longer than 3 to 5 minutes at a time. People are distracted at school, at work and at home. The best news is that Rosen believes the human brain can be retrained to sustain longer attention spans.

Mindlessness

Mindlessness is the one thing Ellen Langer has been working against for most of her career. As Harvard’s first tenured woman in the psychology department, Langer lectures often about mindlessness. She frequently recounts her favorite “mindless” anecdote—While making a purchase, Langer gave her credit card to the cashier. The cashier noticed Ellen had not signed it. She was asked to sign the card while the cashier watched. Once the card was swiped and the receipt was generated Langer was asked to sign that as well. Then, with the newly signed card in one hand and the receipt in the other, the cashier compared the two signatures.

Langer refers to this incident as an example of the sort of rote, senseless activity we might catch ourselves in. Leaving us to wonder, “Now why did I do that?” While many psychological professionals study the different ways people think, Langer is questioning whether, in many situations, we might not be thinking at all. One of the reasons she is fixed on such research is reflected in a common statement: “Where ever you put the mind, the body will follow.

 

Which brings us back to the stunned animal scenario. Is your mindset limiting you from being fully in charge of your physical state and also your destiny? Is your body following a mind that is distracted or anxious?

If you suspect this might be the case, read the next part of this two-part blog for ways to reclaim your mind, your body and your destiny.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for. It is a thing to be achieved.”
—William  Jennings  Bryan

 

 

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