Find Time For Stillness Every Day

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Most busy people complain about their stressful schedules. They are well aware that rarely finding any downtime is hurting them mentally, emotionally, and physically. Yet the irony is that the moment they do happen to inhabit a space of stillness, where there are few external stimuli to pull out behavior, they grow uncomfortable, even anxiety ridden, and quickly ‘fix’ the problem by finding something, anything to do to fill up that empty void.

What we often see therefore is that a busy, stressful schedule is at least partially fabricated as an unconscious means of reducing existential anxiety. It’s not that most people are too busy to find a little time to do nothing but sit alone with their thoughts and feelings every day, it’s that they’re terrified of sitting alone with their thoughts and feelings and solve the problem by remaining in a constant state of business.

So on one hand you have the pain of stress cued off by an unending stream of external stimuli and on the other hand you have the pain of existential anxiety cued off by the absence of external stimuli. If the practice of life in our modern world shows us anything it’s that while rationally people might be inclined to choose existential anxiety over stress unconsciously they’ll always choose stress over existential anxiety because at least they understand the source of their stress, they can pin down where their feelings are coming from. Meanwhile existential anxiety, which by its very nature has no object but is itself the source, is ephemeral and hard to pin down and hard to understand, like a terrifying specter constantly lurking at the periphery of vision.

The best way to combat stress and the mental, emotional, and physical problems that come in its wake is to find time for stillness every day. This means cutting through the rationalizations and deciding to embrace the painful existential anxiety that arises the moment there’s nothing in the environment to captivate attention. It’s not only okay to sit there and do nothing for twenty or thirty minutes a day, it’s absolutely essential for good mental, emotional, and physical health. As doing nothing becomes more of a routine existential anxiety becomes less of a problem, inhabiting that space of stillness feels more natural and becomes calming and rejuvenating, a real buffer against the unavoidable stressors of daily life, rather than anxiety inducing.