Don’t Panic: The Art of Staying Still in 3 Tips

August 11, 2015

This is a true story.

It involves a bird, my feet, and a mind that wanted to race in the rain.

I woke up this morning with a pretty foggy head. I worked a lot of hours yesterday and went to bed exhausted, sleeping through my 5a.m. alarm clock.

I brewed my French press, then sat on the porch watching the morning rain.

I thought about all the things that I need to do today and my mind started racing with “got to get to work, got to get to work”.

Then, thankfully, my daily habits that I’ve worked so hard to build kicked in. I’ve learned to recognize that when my mind does this, that’s probably when I need to stop and stay still.

I laid out my yoga mat on the porch, just out of the rain’s reach, and set my 20-minute timer for meditation.

I watched as my mind raced like a Formula One car, zig-zagging through the many errands and assignments I need to get out. The new website I’m building. The book I’m writing. And how I want to spend more time with my wife.

I just watched and watched and kept bringing my mind back to the breath.

When the timer went off, I moved into downward dog and started my short morning Jivamukti yoga routine.

After about twenty minutes, I moved into Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) — one of my favorite postures.

My body stood straight and I breathed Ujjayi breath. Yoga breath.

Then it happened.

I felt little tiny prickles on my feet. Was it rain? No, because my feet weren’t getting wet. Was it little pieces of wood from the rafters somehow landing on my feet? So, I moved my feet a bit to see if I could somehow take a look and there it was. One of the finches that often visit the patio garden had landed on my feet. He stood there, perched on his little tiny prickly legs and blinked at me.

Then I did what any normal human would do. I freaked out and came tumbling out of my shoulder stand.

Little birdy flew away and I broke into volcanic laughter as I laid there on my side on the patio.

I probably looked like a madman to any neighbors who may have seen me.

I share this story because I’m finally learning how to stay still. And staying still is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I’m a Capricorn ( a mountain goat at heart ), and I want to run up the mountain, chase after my dreams, and be extraordinary.

So, staying still is not in my DNA.

It’s my greatest struggle in life.

But, I’ve learned that staying still is a unique strength. It’s not a weakness. Staying still allows one to focus. It allows for understanding. And it allows one to be present.

As I continue on in my day and start checking off the list of the many things I need to do today, I need to remember to stay still.

Here are three takeaway tips that I’ve learned on how to stay still.

1. Don’t Panic

The first line in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says, “Don’t Panic”. It’s hilarious because when you are in a panic, the last thing anyone wants to hear is “Don’t Panic.” That’s juts about as helpful as someone saying “calm down.”

But it’s true.

When you’re panicking, you’re likely going to make awful decisions. Instead of panicking, breathe. Breathe slowly on a four-count inhale and four-count exhale.

So, never say, “Don’t Panic.” Instead, breathe.

2. Three Little Birds

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” know what’s up. They remind us that every little thing is going to be all right, so there’s no need to worry about a thing.

I’m not sure that that’s entirely true all the time because bad things happen, but thinking positive about a situation allows one to be positive when it comes to making decisions.

Anytime you enter into a situation where you’re thinking negative, like “I’m never going to get this job” or “she’s never going to say yes to me” or “I’m never going to pass this test, all that does it stress you out.

And stress is a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Kelly McGonigal reminds us in her TED talk that stress, if looked at as a good thing and a sign that you are challenging yourself in life, can be really helpful.

3. Uncertainty

During meditation this morning, a large tree branch cracked and fell to the ground and I opened my eyes in shock. Then, I went back to meditation and thought of Pema Chodron.

In Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change, Pema reminds us that change happens with or without our help. Tree branches come crashing down all the time, with or without me climbing a tree.

When we live knowing that our future is uncertain, it allows us to focus on the present and be here now.

Let me be clear. I still suck at being still, but I’m getting better. As the rain continues to fall today, I watch its tiny droplets splash to the ground one after another. I’m appreciating the beauty of this moment and grateful that, at least for a brief moment, I haven’t moved yet.

Like what you are reading? Here is a free copy of Your Life on Purpose: Ten Simple Tips to Live a Life with Impact (no, you don’t have to give up your email). If you prefer to listen, here’s my 10-minute daily podcast on living intentionally.

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Mark,

    Love this! I start every day with 10 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of deep stretching, and 2 minutes in an icy cold shower. Each helps me to vibe higher, which helps me to embrace change, stress and yep, to stay still for a bit each day ;)

    Thanks for sharing!


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