Tomorrow at 9am Eastern, ULab participants are joining in a collective moment of stillness. The intention is to reconnect to the global community many of us are experiencing in during the course.
Stillness is radical.
Our world and habits teach us to fill the space of each moment, meeting, and meal. The chatter in our minds reflects the noise of the outer world. Practicing silence and stillness is counter-culture and can feel intimidating. There’s good news. You don’t have to develop a 30 minute a day meditation practice to experience more stillness and silence.
In honor of the global moment of silence tomorrow, here are seven simple silence strategies to try during your day.
Silence Strategy 1: Take a private moment of silence for yourself early in the day.
This can be as quick as taking 5 intentional breaths before you get out of bed or as long as a half hour meditation session, or anything in between. You can be silent with your cup of coffee, breathing in that roasted goodness. Experiment until you find something small that works for you. This is also an excellent practice to use before a meeting or presentation (see #4).
Silence Strategy 2: Notice nature.
This is one of my favorite ways to find silence and solace. Even the most buttoned up corporate headquarters has a plant somewhere. Find it. Pretend to tie your shoe and spend a few seconds filling your field of vision with living green. Even better, find a window or go outside and find a tree, shrub, flower, ant or bird to watch for a minute or two. I’ve done this during conferences when I cannot stand one more minute inside. A few deep breaths outside does wonders. Any water source bigger than a water fountain brings peace.
Silence Strategy 3: Seek silence in public.
We can’t always be alone when we need to center ourselves and find a pocket of peace. No problem. You can be silent right in front of everyone and no one will notice. Half the people will be on their phones and not paying attention anyway. Those who look your way will take whatever visual cues you provide and assume you are doing that activity. Hold whatever prop you have- your phone, tablet, notebook, laptop, magazine- in your hands. Set your gaze so that you’re looking over the object and down in front of you rather than focusing on your prop. This is my favorite way to meditate when I can’t be alone. No one has ever been the wiser.
Silence Strategy 4: Build silence into meetings.
Some workplaces have incorporated contemplative practices into their corporate culture. The rest of us have to be more creative in bringing stillness to work. After giving yourself some silence before a meeting, share it in subtle ways with others. Before the meeting starts, look around the room and offer a smile (or nod, or whatever other acknowledgement feels most natural), to the other people in the room. Do this with the intention to really SEE them. You’ll be surprised what you notice. Take a deep breath and use what you notice to begin the meeting. Between agenda items, provide 30 seconds to 2 minutes for people to reflect and write down any notes or ideas they have. Tell them you’ll save time at the end for these items. See if you can extend the silence after people stop writing.
Silence Strategy 5: Take a deep breath (or two) before speaking.
This one can be HARD and works in any conversation- even online ones. So often we’re deciding what we want to say before we finish listing to what is being said. Pausing before speaking takes practice and you’ll be amazed at the results. The first few times I tried this in my work was when I was supposed to be “running” a meeting. By pausing before I spoke I hardly said a thing after the introduction. The meeting went along beautifully without my intervention, we accomplished everything we needed to, and I was able to listen deeply to the conversation. Added bonus, I freed myself from the burden of coming up with something smart to say all the time. Ahhhh.
Silence Strategy 6: Practice silence between tasks.
Some days I can be chugging trough my list of things to do and not even notice how much time has passed. To be more present, I take a minute or two to relax between tasks. Sometimes I recognize the next item on my list is not the most important task do or I’ll remember an idea I’d neglected to write down. Sitting with a sense of accomplishment for the small things is motivating during the times when it feels like nothing big gets done.
Silence Strategy 7: Have technology remind you to be mindful.
If you’re not up for self-propelled stillness, the editors of Mindful magazine have a solution. You can sign up for “Mindful Interrupters” delivered to your inbox or Twitter feed. Interrupters change frequently and are a playful way to bring you back to the present moment, which is really the whole point of stillness and silence. You can also find the interrupters on their web site.
Join me in 5 minutes of silence tomorrow at 9am Eastern. Those in the Pacific time zone can use the 5 minutes to try out Silence Strategy #1.