The Practice of Stillness

According to the popular StrengthsFinder assessment, my top strength is “Achiever.” The report that summarized my test results says,

Person Sitting Quietly on the Edge of a Dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean, Image #7706240

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

This strength has served me well, but it also has a dark side.

It means I have a difficult time turning off my mind and just being still. I seem to be more of a human doing than a human being.

Recently, my wife Gail recommended that I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. She said, “You won’t agree with everything in this book, but I think it will really challenge you—especially the first chapter.”

Intrigued, I decided to read the book on my recent vacation.

The first chapter is entitled, “Nothing.” In summarizing the chapter, Beck says, “to begin the Joy Diet, you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.”

I was so challenged by this chapter, that I haven’t gotten beyond it. I have now read it four times. I have also practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row.

Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.

What Is Stillness?

Beck’s premise is that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” By doing nothing, she means literally doing nothing.

  • This is not prayer (at least not in the sense of talking to God)
  • It is not problem-solving.
  • It is not planning.

Doing nothing is being still, quieting your mind (and the cacophony of voices), and simply being.

All the ancient wisdom literature points to the importance of this practice. Psalm 46:10 is representative: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Why You Need Stillness

I doubt you need convinced that you need some measure of what I am describing in your life. As I have shared about this topic with others, they inevitably say, “Oh, I so need that in my life! How do I start?”

Nevertheless, here are three of my own reasons for practicing the discipline of stillness:

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

How to Practice Stillness

This is not something I have enough experience with to write. In fact, I feel pretentious for even attempting it.

But perhaps that is the value I can add to the conversation. I am not so experienced that I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner.

So in that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions for how you can practice stillness in your own journey and reclaim some interior margin.

  1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.
  2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat on the dock by the lake. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study and shut the door. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Set a timer. I am following Beck’s admonition to set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.
  4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. Beck says that if you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water. I also play a recording I have of the ocean.
  5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. Beck offers several techniques for practicing “nonjudgmental observation,” a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.
  6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.
  7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness. For me, I go back to a time I stood on the balcony of a monastery in Greece, looking out on the Aegean Sea. I wrote about it here.

Perhaps the most important thing is just to start. It’s easy to blow the discipline of stillness off as something you don’t have time for. Don’t. The busier you are the more important it is.

You need this in your life more than you know. Even if you can only set aside five minutes a day, do it. And if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

Questions: Have you ever practiced stillness? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what is keeping you from starting? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    This post brings back traumatic memories from my high school days. I once got a B instead of an A on a Latin test because I had translated something as “the stillness of the sea”,  but the teacher insisted the correct translation would have been “the calm of the sea.” 

    So rather than practicing stillness, I’ve been pondering the distinction between “still” and “calm” ever since. Last thing I want to do is practice being calm while erroneously believing  I’m practicing stillness. 

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    I think this is tough for most people to do.  Some people feed off the energy of all the chaos.  Even if the woods without anything around them, they have to pull out their cell phone.  Being an introvert, I’m constantly having to snatch moments where I’m away for this energy because it’s very draining for me.  Sometimes there isn’t enough stillness to find at the right time!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      I agree Linda – it’s a challenge for the “western mind” to strive for stillness. It’s a new concept for me to consider the pursuit of stillness as a discipline. I like how Michael has clearly laid out a step-by-step process to develop this skill.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think it is worth asking, “Why are we so addicted to the noise and the busyness?” I think I was afraid of what I would discover when everything got quiet. I was pleasantly surprised.

      • Serpas623

        The busyness has become a necessity of life. It is unfortunate that our culture has an addiction to everything including email, Facebook, and all the other media outlets. I am afraid that when I am still GOD might actually answer all the prayers I have sent out my whole life. The old saying goes if we don’t get answers to our prayers it’s because we aren’t ready or willing to except the answers. In those moments of quiet I am afraid that I will get the answers I never intended on following up on. Thanks

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         I understand the fear. What surprised you?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          That it was easier and more enjoyable than I expected.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    Being still is a huge challenge for me as well.  I have my quiet time where I’m reading and thinking about Scripture…but shutting my mind completely off?  I will have to do this.  

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      I think we’re both in the same boat Eileen!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’m with you, Eileen. Even when I’m quiet, I still feel like I need to be doing something: praying, problem solving, etc. To be truly still is a challenge for me.

      • http://twitter.com/systhink Matthew E. Weilert

        Michele and others, the esteemed Ethics professor Christina Hoff Sommers has a radically nourishing and disruptively nurturing comment that turns much of the pop psych on its head: she
        tells us the assertion that there is such a thing as “the perspective of women” is as suspect as the idea of “Aryan science.” [http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=1990&month=06] This liberating view is echoed by His Holiness, Blessed John Paul II when he remarks that “Every outlook which presents itself as a conflict between the sexes is only an illusion and a danger: it would end in segregation and competition between men and women, and would promote a solipsism nourished by a false conception of freedom.” [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040731_collaboration_en.html]

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Let me know how it works out. I’d love to hear about your experience.

      • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

         I’ll give it a try this week. I like your idea of ocean sounds.  I might have to turn those waves up real loud to tune out the voices in my head though!

        • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

           Eileen, You are such an awesome encourager!
          PS> I left links to two articles I wrote this weekend on Stillness on your Facebook page. Enjoy~

          • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

             Bob, I read through both your posts this morning.  Some great thoughts :)  Thanks for your encouragement and kindness! 

      • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

         Tried it for the first time this morning.  I didn’t do very well.  Crazy random thoughts kept popping up. At one point, I caught myself writing my grocery list.  I’m going to keep doing it though.  I think a rocking chair would be a good idea for me. 

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Yes, you will get better with practice. And some days, you will be more distracted. This happens to me when I don’t rest well.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    I have not tried this in the mornings.  But I do see that timing as helpful because it will make me pause before I start my bible and prayer time.  This may prevent those two things from becoming the first 2 things on my daily “to do” list and allow them to always be meaningful.

    An interesting place I find peace is on long drives in my car.  I turn off the radio and just drive in silence.  I can get incredibly still during long mindless drives.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Dave, great point about prolonged mindless activities. For me, it’s long runs in the woods. After a mile or two my mind disengages from the physical exertion and strangely provides opportunity for introspection. There’s an ancient proverb that states, “The hub is always at rest despite the spinning of the wheel around it…”

      • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ Charlie Lyons

         I LOVE that quote. Thank you for sharing.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Here’s a great quote from Lao Tzu,

          We join spokes together in a wheel,
          but it is the center hole
          that makes the wagon move.

          We shape clay into a pot,
          but it is the emptiness inside
          that holds whatever we want.

          We hammer wood for a house,
          but it is the inner space
          that makes it livable.

          We work with being,
          but non-being is what we use.

          This is from Chapter 1 of the Joy Diet.

          • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ Charlie Lyons

             Wow… this just about captures the essence of stillness and how we need to relate to it. Thank you, Michael.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I find that my prayer and Bible reading is so much fruitful when it is preceded by stillness. By the way, I like long car rides for the same reason.

      • http://twitter.com/jonathanhatch_ Jonathan Hatch

        Interesting. I have come to call my time driving, my “truck time.” I love it. There are some moments where, out of all the church services and worship experiences, my “truck time” is when I really feel like I encounter God the most. I turn off the radio, and just be.

  • bwang

    This is a wonderful discipline that I’ve slowly began to practice over the past 4 years. There is a ministry called Rhythm in Twenty that I participated in a that completely changed the way I approach ministry and my life. We had 3 retreats in 3 years and it helped transform my spiritual walk in terms of Psalm 46:10 time. Rhythm in Twenty is for ages 24-35, but they just launched a ministry called Rogue that is for pastors and businessmen 35-60. They take 20 men at a time and teach them to find the art of rhythm in their life that many have lost. Michael I would highly recommend you checking it out at http://roguejourney.org/ It’s a program that you would find highly interesting. Especially base upon this post

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Do you know of anything similar for women?

      • bwang

        Michele-
         I know that they have been looking into creating a “journey” for women, but  I don’t know if they have the women that could lead it at the moment. They just launched Rogue after 4 years of Rhythm in Twenty. They are wanting to be excellent in everything they do, so they have been moving at a steady pace. The amazing thing is that everyone behind this ministry our pastors at their respective churches. I know their heart is not to leave anyone out, but at the time they can only do so much. You could go to the website and send them an email asking for more information. 

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Just curious. Would love to do something like this myself. Sounds amazing. Thanks for the info!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have noted this to read later. The website is very compelling. Thanks.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com/ Jeff K. Clarke

    Thanks, Michael for the reminder to schedule stillness into our daily lives. This is so incredibly important. I wrote a short blog about this same topic a while ago based on a line I heard while watching the latest Karate Kid movie.  Mr. Han said to his student, Dre Parker, “there’s a big difference between stillness and doing nothing.” I love that! We all need to be reminded that taking time to be still isn’t a waste of time. And, moments of stillness means more than just ‘lazing around the house’ (though it may include that as well). These are intentional times when we set apart ourselves from our daily responsibilities to rejuvenate, contemplate, reflect, and relax.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

     http://jeffkclarke.com/2010/10/25/lessons-i-learned-from-watching-karate-kid/

    Jeff

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Great quote!

  • http://twitter.com/ReginaMaeWrites Regina Mae

    I started practicing stillness a few years ago, thanks to my yoga practice.  Some days, the five minutes of Savasana are the only stillness I have.  But the lessons learned in the stillness have been immeasurable.  Stillness is essential for a balanced life, which is what I blog about at mybalancedlife.me.

  • Scott

    While I don’t do it often enough, learning to live into the practice was one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

  • Kay

    Thank you. This is very timely. I’ve recently realized how cluttered my mind is and how I need to find calm.  It is a challenge to truly be still. Years ago, as I tried to learn to quiet my mind, I was advised to mentally look at a blank wall as a technique to move into a quiet place. I found that as I tried looking at a blank wall, my thoughts would invariably travel to the corner where two walls and the ceiling joined. 

    Can we truly know God–and know who He is in our lives–if we can’t be still? 

  • Mizlmp

    I’m in a particularly unpleasant season of my professional life where I have lost the joy for what I do for a variety of reasons. Reclaiming some internal margin may be just what I need to find perspective (aside from my time with the Lord). I, too, am an Achiever, and for me everyday starts at ground zero. This may be just the thing to still the loud voice in my head. Thank you, Michael, for sharing your experience.

  • Agatha Nolen

    Wonderful summary of how to get started on “stillness” in your life. I just returned last week from a regular retreat at a silent Trappist Monastery in Upstate New York. I have to “get away” from it all once in a while to achieve complete stillness. But I’ve returned energized, yet peaceful, an odd combination! Some people think that stillness means inactivity, but in reality, our stillness allows a place for God to meet us, where we can enjoy the comfort and peace of knowing Him rather than having the world crowd him out. One of the monks gives a lecture each day (one hour of talking!) and told us that even Reading is Noise.
     I wrote a story about Fr. Jerome and his comments: http://www.agathanolen.com/journal/silence-is-loud.html

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think you make a great point about reading. It is valuable (obviously), but it is different.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    This runs so contrary to our world today (I supposed that has been said by every generation), but we live with so very many distractions.  I need to rediscover the power in this practice and appreciate the reminders you have been giving me in recent weeks about the stuff that really matters.

  • http://twitter.com/KrisHopes Kris Wood

    Helpful post! I too am an “Activator” and “Achiever” and love the buzz of busy and productive. I have learned that I  tend to obsessiveness if I don’t have a planned (and implemented!) break. For a while, I had a post it note on my desktop that said “Achieve Rest”. While  that may seem like a oxymoron, it worked for me!   

    I also added it to my To Do’s and my calendar. First Fridays (of each month) have become a precious time to slow down and regroup, if only for a half day.  I highly recommend looking at rest as a mandate as opposed to suggestion.  I am masterful at finding loopholes to my own rules!  LOL 

    Seriously though, I have a very small budget, so I had to find a way. I discovered that if I head to a camp or other rural place, the cost is nominal and the setting is beautiful. And I grab my camera to “do something” and it’s a genuine help for focus and quiet my soul.  One of the fruits of this habit is that I bring the stillness home so that even as things ramp up, I feel energized and at peace.  This post is a good reminder to not let those days slip by!  Thank you!

    • James

      Altgough I appreciate the need to clear my head on occasion, its only done by a Person not a place. I enjoy reading your posts, they’ve been so helpful, but this one is a little weird. Screams Jesus + maybe a little more explanation from the bible

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

        James, like any spiritual discipline, silence or stillness can be practiced from a motivation of mere self-improvement, and self-reliance; or it can be from a place of dependency upon the activity of the Spirit. New Testament professor, Robert Plumber, has written an article that you may find helpful, “Are the Spiritual Disciplines of “Silence and Solitude” Really Biblical?” http://www.sbts.edu/media/publications/sbjt/SBJT_2006Winter2.PDF

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Thanks for sharing this link. I am eager to read the article.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        I believe my stillness is nothing less than sitting quietly in His presence. Thanks.

      • MichaelJohnCusick

        James, there is a long history in the Christian church of “the prayer of quiet,” “contemplative prayer,” “centering prayer,” or simply being still. For the Christian who is conscious of the Presence of God within, there is no greater form of prayer. A.W. Tozer wrote extensively about this practice and pointed to earlier giants of the faith as examples.  

        Consider David, who is Psalm 27:4 said the “one thing” he asked for was to “dwell in the house of the Lord and to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” For the Believer, the house of the Lord is now you and me–our bodies. So dwelling (abiding) with Christ can be done at any time, anywhere.  No words necessary.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I like your imperative to “Achieve rest.” Brilliant—particularly for us achievers!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    After reading your post this morning, I went into the other room, sat back in my recliner, turned off the light, and became still. This isn’t easy. At first, I could feel pain  in my neck and back. I relaxed more and the pain subsided. Then the voices and fears attacked, but I was able to put them aside. I thought about a sailboat on the ocean. An incredibly peaceful scene. It was if I was there. 

    At first the minutes ticked by slowly, but as I relaxed, I didn’t want it to end.

    This was difficult, but well worth it.

    As the timer went off, I felt completely different.

    I think this is a great exercise to lead into prayer or planning.

    With your mind quiet, you can actually put aside the noise and focus…

    On being still and finding a peaceful inner place of solitude.

    Where the troubles of the world are set aside.

    And the quiet stillness of the present…

    Preparing for the day ahead.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing your experience, John. I hereby challenge you to seven days of it! Then you can blog about the experience. I, for one, would love to read it.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Challenge accepted! I’ll post next week…

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Awesome. I can’t wait to read it.

  • Lisa V.

    My first thought after reading “be still for 15 minutes” was “what do you mean?”, in “What do you mean, like do nothing?!?!”….LOL.  Sounds easy, not so much.  But something I could try….

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s what I thought at first too. I wan’t sure I could do it!

  • Chad Jackson

    Love this!  Practiced this already this morning because of your post.  What a discipline I need to regularly instill in my life.  

    I had a tough time without my mind wandering but kept repeating Psalm 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God.” What a great way to start the day. 

    You have made a tremendous impact on many who are reading this and implementing this into their lives.  Thank you. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chad. I appreciate your teachability and willingness to try something new.

    • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

      I have found that when my mind won’t shut up, going back to that phrase (don’t witchburn me guys) as sort of mantra, and focus on it, it helps the “voices in my head” shut up for a while.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        This is the value of the Jesus prayer for those who care to try it. (For those who don’t know what that is, Google it.)

        • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

          As I’ve been reading through the posts.  It seems like everyone is pretty turned on to this concept of stillness.  I mean it honestly surprises me.  I guess I was running with too many narrow minded individuals.  Faith in humanity restored. :-D

  • Vernon

    I so need this. I’m anxious to give it a try.

  • annepeterson

    Though I have practiced stillness I have to say it hasn’t been so intentional as the fifteen minutes I just took. Sitting in my living room with beautiful trees to view I quieted myself, setting a timer. I noticed thoughts trying to enter my mind but they saw my resolve and quickly left. The minutes floated by. When the timer went off I decided to keep part of me in that still state for a while. It feels wonderful to be still. Kind of like cleaning out a cluttered room. 

    When we were looking for a new house, each of us wrote the top ten things we wanted. My first three were quiet, quiet and quiet. The last house we lived in literally sat 20 feet from a busy street. When a car would be stopped at the light, we could hear the base notes of the car stereo that was playing.  

    Thanks for your post. And for the perfect start for today. One thing that tickled me as I sat there was watching how a breeze would only affect part of that monstrous tree. As if God said, “go tickle that third branch.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Anne.

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I have been practicing stillness for several years, even before coming to Orthodoxy.  In the circles that I ran in, Meditation was considered taboo.  Turns out its a vital part of every lasting tradition.

    • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Word. I have some good friends who LOVE the Orthodox Church for that reason.

      • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

        Here is the thing.  HAD the circles I ran in before being Orthodox not overreacted to my private practices they wouldn’t have lost me.  Or they would’ve lost me more slowly, I think.

        If you don’t want people trying it, don’t outlaw it. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/LisaAlessi Lisa Alessi

    Great suggestions Michael!  A very important topic that so many people I work with struggle with.  I have the same top strength and also a 3, known as the “achiever” and “performer”of the Enneagram personality types.  My ultimate path to enlightenment as a 3 is to appreciate who I am or as you say — practice just “being” — as opposed to always doing. I also trained extensively with Martha Beck a few years back and remember all too well trying to “do nothing.” At first it felt like an impossible task.  My mind would race then I’d beat myself up for not being able to “control” my thoughts. But over time, trying different methods and allowing my thoughts to wander, I was able to increase my stillness practice from 10 to 30 as much as 45 minutes without any struggle.  I’ve found the key is not about trying to control our thoughts as our minds race, it’s about not attaching to them, just allowing them to flow.  We have about 60k thoughts per day or 42/minute.  That’s a lot of thoughts.  When practicing stillness, we teach ourselves that we are not our thoughts, we don’t have to succumb to them especially negative self talk, we get to choose which ones to attach to and thereby gain peace of mind.  Thanks for bringing attention to such an important topic!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You make an important distinction between control and attachment. Excellent.
      By the way, my oldest daughter got certified in Martha Beck’s coaching several years ago.

  • TheGreatDanaJ

    I don’t practice stillness on a regular basis. But I want and need to. I will work on incorporating it. I agree, it’s very difficult to not let your mind wander during those moments. But it’s necessary. 

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Truth be told, I don’t engage in the practice of “stillness” nearly enough. This post has inspired me to make a commitment to it. Thanks for the guidance that it’s not prayer, Bible reading or journaling – I would have clumped it in with those activities.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    I love the rocking chair option. Being still is very hard for me, but I love the rhythmic  motion of a rocking chair or glider. I think I could do it in that type setting.

    I think personality plays a big part in this as well. Type A’s (likely Achievers by your definition), have a hard time being still, while Type B’s need the still time. Also, as an extrovert I get my energy from doing and being with people. An introvert would appreciate the energy received from being still more than an extrovert.

  • Jeff Pinkleton

    Very appropriate!
    Just spent the weekend w/ 12 men @ http://www.monks.org
    Michael, if haven’t been since so close, you really should!
    Engage & be STILL w/ your young mentees there.
    My dad, who lives in Brentwood/Nashville area, joined us

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is on my bucket list. I have had several friends who have gone there and been blown away. Thanks.

  • http://www.lincolnparks.com Lincoln Parks

    I need to implement stillness for my wife and I. I think we are constantly on the go and never really are still. We do take time for God daily and allow those deposits to happen but the stillness part of the equation has been all but difficult to do.

    I am going to forward this post to my wife so that she can read it also. The test will be to see if she actually takes time to read it and be still. I know its hard for me to do so on a daily basis.

  • sue_k

    The absolute best part of the day is the “stillness.” In my circle, we call it “soaking” or “marinating” and we practice it with the Lord. We just enjoy His Presence. It is not, as you also mention, a time of prayer or petition or even of worship. It is just being. And it is wonderful. I would add one suggestion and that is to have a paper and pencil handy. Write the blip, and then forget about it. It helps me to re-focus. Some of those interruptions are from the Lord and are worth pursuing. Later.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great idea. Having pen and paper nearby helps me to stay focused on the present. Otherwise, I end up spending my stillness trying to remind myself not to forget. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great added suggestion. Thanks.

  • Lucindamiller01

    I would recommend exploring  the practice of “centering prayer” – it is being still….

  • http://www.sheliamullican.com/ Shelia

    “Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger.
    Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning…” ~Henri Nouwen

    I could not agree with you more, Mike. I know that stillness is absolutely essential to my sanity. Both a regular practice as you have described herein, and occasional extended periods.

    Another resource you might enjoy is Martin Laird’s book INTO THE SILENT LAND. It comes at the practice of stillness from the hesychastic tradition of the desert fathers. I am on my second reading.

    Thank you for this.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       “…without silence words lose their meaning.” So true.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the book recommendation, Shelia. I just bought it on my Kindle. Can’t wait to read it!

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  • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    I need to unload before I can be still. After a solid journaling session, I’m able to be still. It feels like I’m sitting in a clean room, staring out at the horizon, with all of the world before me. It’s majorly awesome. 

    The only trouble is, I haven’t made this a discipline.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    What is this “stillness” you speak of? Oh dear. I’m failing terribly at this. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You need this, Mary, for all the same reasons I do, since we are similarly wired!

      • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

        I know. So much.

  • http://www.dmleblanc.com/ Dustin LeBlanc

    I think the first thing in the morning thing sounds great. How do you keep from falling asleep? I have reading my Bible first thing and I keep dozing while I read. Perhaps I need a place a little further from the bed :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That sounds crazy, but make sure you get a good night’s rest. I also drink a cup of coffee while I am doing it.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    I usually practice stillness on vacation, when it easier to find the time. Usually it involves being outside, enjoying some aspect of nature. But I can’t afford to wait for vacation to make this a regular discipline. The challenge is finding a time when the environment (i.e. children!) allows for it.

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com/ Maurice F. Overholt

    Thank you for this reminder, Michael.

    In the middle of 2009 I was going through a divorce and on a paid leave of absence dealing with a lot of pain and uncertainty.  One of the most healing things I did was simply sit by the big picture window in my apartment.

    I did nothing.

    Others asked why I didn’t do this or that, but in reality the best thing I could have done is what I did.  I just sat and healed.

    I agree that it is easy to forget this discipline, even when I have had a great result from it.  I appreciate the reminder.

    Maurice

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That sounds so right, Maurice. There is a healing power to stillness and silence. It does for our soul what fasting does for our body.

  • Cheri Essner

    I agree with you. I started this practice as well and it has really been very beneficial. It is a practice that we do in yoga where we lie very still and remain in the moment. Don’t let life’s moments escape you! Great piece!

  • http://atrudel.wordpress.com/ Anne

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Great post, Mike. Stillness has become a practice (though sometimes intermittent) that I have learned to embrace over the past decade. It is tough, as Linda Adams points out, but it is so worth the effort. You’re right about the need to still the cacophony around us. Letting go of thoughts is challenging for me. I have tried picturing them as clouds and letting them float away. Sometimes that works; others, not so much. Getting in touch with my breathing and slowing it down often works for stilling the rest of me. Sometimes I chant “God” over and over in my mind to help me close off other thoughts. Often I sit cross-legged on the floor with my hands in prayer position or with them resting comfortably on my knees. I am not sure I have managed 15 minutes most days, but I start with baby steps. Ten minutes were achievable for me at the beginning. I see this as time to rest in God. Thanks for your always-relevant blog.

  • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

    I know it’s far from the ideal Michael presents here, but I commute often with no radio, no iPhone, no nothing.  Just silence. It’s the only quiet part of my day. Time well spent.

  • Eshantis

    As my young children grow I find myself more easily convinced to take time to be still. I’ve noticed a sharp contrast in the times I neglect to do this and the times I make it a priority. I’m not a person that can sit still for long periods without jumping up to get things done, but I’ve also notice more focus after stillness when I do pop up :)

  • http://www.wonderwomanimnot.com/ Elizabeth Hill

    I too have achiever as one of my top 5 strengths so I completely relate to your inability to sit still.  At the end of yoga class we are to lie on our backs completely still and empty our minds – that’s harder for me than any of the poses! 

    While I haven’t read The Joy Diet, I have been trying to be more purposeful in finding relaxation time and/or just being there for my friends and family.  I find that when I’m with them I’m also trying to do several other things.  Not quite the way to show them their importance to me!

  • Raschelle Loudenslager

    Ahhhh…my favorite scriptures…”Be still and know that I AM God.” Ps. 46:10 and from Ps. 23 “He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.”  In the quiet of my heart God renews my spirit and I feel His presence there with me. I agree with you Michael, just fifteen minutes of stillness a day will transform your life and your life’s call. I am a doer, my mind fires consistently, even when I wish at times it would not. However, surrendering to the discipline of stillness, and the blessing of quiet, my soul finds peace and my spirit is renewed and refreshed. I then move through my day from a place of surrender to a point of productive and successful outcome! The ultimate result is one great day!

  • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

    When I tried to do this over the past weekend, part of me wanted to do a five minutes before hand doing a GTD ‘Mind Sweep’. If your not familiar with this, it’s basically like clearing your mental RAM. Anything that could jump and distract you during the course of the silence you are about to go through gets written down or typed. If the thought happens to pop up, or any emotions with it, I think it may be easier to mentally wave away. Of course, ideally, they wouldn’t show up at all, because your subconscious would let them go, because they have been written down. 

  • Sdmadd2

    You’re kidding, right?  To sit and do nothing is wasted time.  I’m still 8 hours a night when I sleep.  I already don’t get enough done in a day, now you’re asking me to sit and stare into space?  In a country full of couch potatoes and do nothings sitting around waiting to collect a check instead of work, do you really think more sitting and being nonproductive is really a wise choice?

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       I totally see what you are getting at. Being a person of high initiative, I measure myself by how much I get done and how productive I feel. Recently I’ve been challenged with a new perspective by the guys who wrote “the Power of Full  Engagement.” It’s this: instead of measuring our life by time, perhaps we should measure it by how well we are stewarding our energy. Stillness, naps, good sleep, exercise, eating well – all of these things can make us more alert, and engaged. The net result is more productivity, but more than  that, we become more alive.

      But it’s up to each of us to decide what those practices are that will work for us, and that may change depending on the seasons of our lives.

  • Sue Morrow

    I had a stroke when I was 37, back in the year 2000. One of the most amazing things about the whole experience was that I learned to sit. No multitasking (watching movie with a handcraft and talking on the phone for example). Not planning, not regretting, not making lists in my head. Not even thinking about happy times. Just sitting.
    For a long time I did not like this necessity–and then slowly I learned that even though the signs of the stroke were going away, the need to “just sit” was a very important part of my life. I can do things better, smarter, happier–if I have that recharge time.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Sue, it’s amazing how difficult trials teach us the best lessons.  I’m glad this one has stuck with you over the past 12 years!

  • Jack Lynady

    Nice read Michael. This is a bit difficult at home with 3 little guys. So I usually do it at my office. Need to get a bit more intentional with some of your suggestions. Thx.

  • Kristen

    This was great Michael, just what I needed today.  For me the biggest opportunity is during my beach walk, now I just need to keep my iPod at home.  Thanks Michael.

  • http://www.austinburkhart.com/ Austin Burkhart

    I completely agree as usual. Of course one of the biggest challenges for me is telling my body not to nap during the time! Maybe that’s an indicator that I need more sleep….

  • Jen

    No time!  I know, I know…we all have the same 24 hours in a day.  I just can’t get my mind to shut off and slow down long enough to do anything like this.  It seems everything is “urgent” in my life and needs my attention right now.  I think my first step to getting on track was signing up for this newsletter which I found through the life planner for which I am SO grateful.  We sat down with our teenage sons and our 18 year old was so resistant thinking he didn’t need something like that but we finally ended up having a nice conversation with them finding out what their dreams are.  These attitudes and practices need to be integrated into high school, even middle school, curriculum.

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       Jen, kuddos to you and your husband for engaging with the dreams of your kids. I’ve been a high school teacher for about a decade now and have been surprised by how rare this is. Nice work pushing through the resistance :)

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    That is going to be tough.  Not because I don’t have time, but because I will try to not make time.

  • toddstocker

    There is something about being still.  It resets everything about you – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. 

    If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!  Thanks Michael.

  • http://twitter.com/joewickman Joe Wickman

    Michael, thank you for pausing to just BE. What a fantastic reminder.

    I rediscovered this through a great book, given to me by Senior Pastor. Knowing my tendencies to do, do,  and do some more, this journey into contemplation calmed my weary nerves and reconnected me with the God who created me to just be in His presence.

    http://www.amazon.com/Space-God-Practice-Prayer-Spirituality/dp/0933140460/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343660035&sr=8-1&keywords=Don+Postema+book

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the recommendation, Joe. I just ordered it. It looks great!

  • Melissa

    Two words: Jesus Prayer.

  • Lisa

    For 9 years, I have been on the journey to shift my mindset  from “human doing” to “human being”.  God started the realignment process by sending me on a short term missions trip to Sri Lanka in 2003.  Learning to just “be” has been the most challenging discipline of my life.  Learning to be still became a breaking down of so many habits of action and thought.  It is worthy work to get alone and be still. I love your honesty in this post and your heart to share with others some suggestions on practicing stillness. Along these lines I would encourage your readers to check out resources found here: http://store.renovare.us/
    for additional works by those who have gone before us in this discipline and others.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lisa. My brother-in-law is involved in this ministry.

  • WalkinginDestinyPaul

    Thank you for posting this – a great practice.  I always find the “Be Present” difficult.  In a society like ours, where things are always coming at you from every direction – it is hard to find those times where you can pause and just “be present” – it has to be a discipline. 

  • Cindi White

    I practice stillness when I go on a walk up a small mountain, and just sit at the top.  I just listen to the birds, wind, etc.  Very often I will hear a very distinct message from the Lord.  Many times it is simply, “Be still and know I am God.

  • http://www.tammyhelfrich.com/ Tammy Helfrich

    Our Pastor just taught on this same principle this weekend. I think it is becoming more important as we are constantly connected. Sometimes we need to get away from everything and be still. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Katie

    I needed this today. I think it’s important for so many of us to remember that if we stay TOO busy, we’ll look back and realize that our entire lives have passed us by and we never took a single moment to just be calm. I especially love the scripture reference, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Lord Himself has called us to shut up, sit down, and be okay with doing nothing. Pretty cool.

  • Serpas623

    I experienced stillness when I was a active member of AA. My sponsor told me that I needed to quiet my mind and be still. His instruction was to close your eyes and imagine my self sitting in a recliner on top of a mountain. This was a monumental task. I had never took the time to actually sit still and just sit. I always sat and my mind ran into tomorrow or even worse I rehashed the past. Stillness is very challenging for me and I appreciate your insight into this most beneficial action. Thanks

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  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    There’s a great book on stillness I think you would enjoy by Abby Lewis, titled “Living Still.” It’s a challenging book for someone like me and I often have to refer back to it. http://amzn.to/NQSsZZ

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Sundi Jo. I will check it out.

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    Michael, I am LOVING the recent posts on pausing, sabbath, and rest. As a coach to successful professionals (medical professionals in particular) I am encouraging my clients to pause, to rest, to listen. When you are used to pursuing success however, those are hard lessons. 

    As for my own experience with stillness, I find that it is most profound in my prayer life. Something amazing happens when I am still before God (and not just for a few seconds either). When I am alone, quiet and leaning in to hear God’s ‘still small voice’ that’s when it happens. There aren’t to-do steps for it…other than participation in REAL quiet.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Me too, Matthew!  “Nothing” time has become a great way to gain my bearings and helps me pray more effectively, rather than just jumping into prayer time.

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  • Mary Allen

    This was powerful. I read it immediately after I’d risen from trying to be still for 15 minutes. My motivation was that while moving in God’s will, I seem to be having a hard time lately listening for specifics. My life is faster, having included much online activity to my writing schedule and I wonder if the computer time is short circuiting my attention span. Lately, I’m finding it difficult to slow down. Yet am amazed at a resilience I’ve never experienced before. Reading your post reminded me that I have quit rising so early to get moving. I tend to lie there and listen to the birds, simply luxuriating in the peace and company of my husband before the craziness of the day starts and often simply sending God “I love you”.  When I put it like that, perhaps the stamina is flowing from the early morning stillness, and my forward direction is on course because I’m not needing a bullhorn to get my attention. Thanks for addressing this topic. I’m going to think on it more.  

  • Terry Bortz

    My absolute favorite time of my quiet time each morning.  It was so hard to learn but has been so worth it.  I now look forward to it every day.  And it makes a difference when I don’t get to it for some reason.  I love the idea of being “saturated with God’s peace so no fear, worry or anxiety can get in” (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young). 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Jesus Calling is a great devotional!  The kids version is really great for children too.

  • Missusdoc

    This is beautiful and so helpful!  I am an avid believer in quiet times and quiet spaces.  Even so, I need reminders that it’s ok to simply be quiet befor the Lord without fist praying or reading the Bible or devotional materials.  Because I struggle with thoughts that try to demand my attention, I do find it helps if I at least begin with a prayer for help in this area.  My friend. and unofficial spiritual mentor, Rev. Marjorie Thompson, often guides her workshop or retreat attendees in how they might deal with such distractions.  One thing she suggests is to not get frustrated when thoughts begin creeping in, but to simply set them aside in your mind, knowing that they will still be there for you to pick back up and deal with once you’ve have finished with your quiet time.  This is another idea that works well for me when I remember to do it!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That’s a good point!  I keep a pen and paper next to me where I write down thoughts for later during my “nothing” time.  That way they don’t dominate my thoughts during this valuable time.

  • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

    I’m lost. I get mediative stillness from an eastern theology of emptiness standpoint, but not as a Christian. I can be reflective or quietly thinking through an issue, or thinking while I’m walking or running. Perhaps I need to read the book…

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    Another name for stillness is meditation for me. Meditation is fixed in my daily routine. It helps you in gaining perspective for the next day and reflecting on the day spent :)

  • TroyD

    This would be one way for me to implement your Napping rule.  If I even slow down for 15 minutes I would be asleep.  I do agree both stillness and naps would benefit me tremendously.  Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.theworld4realz.com/ Andi-Roo

    This validates everything I’ve ever felt about noise. I tend toward anxiety & have major panic attacks if there is too much going on around me – too many people talking, or trying to get my attention at the same time – too many loud sounds – too many projects – too much stimulus. I have ZERO problem removing myself from noise & finding a quiet corner in which to collect myself. I am sometimes made to feel “crazy” or “dramatic” when I have to do this, but I literally cannot function if I am overwhelmed with all the business & noise that seems so normal to other people. Thank you for “permission” to continue trying to find silence, to engage in the peace of quiet living. 

    One more thing – a busy mind sometimes needs to focus on one thing before it can relax, so I have found that silently humming or singing a simple song (even if it’s just the alphabet) forces me to drop everything else so that I can slip into that “being still” mental state.

  • Jill

    Michael, I’ve been practicing this discipline. I wrote about it on my blog in April: 
    http://www.jillsavage.org/?p=3969.  I’ve found there are very good reasons God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s an excellent post, Jill. I like how you described sitting with a friend.

  • http://www.christianhomeandfamily.com/ Carey Green

    Great advice… and very beneficial for life.  Can often make the difference between a “crazy-hair-pulling” day and a “go with the flow” sort of day.  The LORD is faithful to us as we pause to redirect our thoughts and energy toward His honor.  Pausing in the day is a mini-sabbath that recharges, revitalizes, and helps re-direct our focus.  Great post Michael!

  • http://ClayWrites.com/ Clay Morgan

    Love this idea and wonder how hard it will be to just not think about all the stuff going on. I think if I tried it first thing in the morning like you I’d fall back asleep! But mid-day, yeah, sounds like a great practice to get into.

  • http://twitter.com/Totally_Taryn Taryn DiMartile

    Thank you for the reminder to do this. I have thought about it, but have never actually done it. I’m working on creating a new daily schedule and thanks to this well-timed blog post, I’m going to make sure I include 15 minutes of complete quiet time first thing in the morning. As someone who thrives on being busy, it’s going to take some discipline, but I know it’s going to be worth it. Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. Let us know how it works out!

  • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

    Michael, after listening to you speak on this in last week’s podcast, I have started my morning quiet time with “nothing” time.  I’m still learning, but it has clearly made the prayer, bible study, journaling, and planning activities during the rest of my quiet time more productive. 

    Thanks for sharing your journey and helping to make the rest of us better!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, John. I’m glad it is helping.

  • Trillion_Small

    I have been practicing this concept of “stillness” for some time now. I actually call it “soaking” but it is the exact same concept. “Soaking” is simply allowing yourself to rest intentionally before God; doing nothing & thinking nothing! It is an awesome practice that truly has its benefits. Being still was difficult for me at first because it felt like I was wasting time. Just like you, Michael, I started off with 15 minute increments daily but I am now able to “soak” or be “still” for more than an hour (sometimes 2 hours). I feel that the more that is required of us as believers, the more time we should be spending in God’s presence. 

    “The more time…the more Mine [God's]” is what I have heard some say when discussing their time “soaking” before God. I am so happy that you have chosen to embark on this new journey of doing “nothing”! It is such a great time for restoration and peace isn’t it?!

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       I’d be interested to know a bit of what helped you break through some of the difficulty and distraction that you encountered when you started out. Thanks.

      • Trillion_Small

        Hello Aaron, starting off was very difficult! One thing that I have learned to do is to not fight the thoughts that come but to simply allow them to pass just as quick as they came. Also, I “soak” when I am free from external distractions (i.e. when nobody is around me). I simply lie down in my living room on the floor with a pillow and a blanket with the lights dim and I play soft worship music (at times I have it completely silent if I am really wishing to hear from God on a specific matter).

        To avoid random thoughts and to keep myself from thinking about my “to-do list” of the day I just think about God’s love. I invite the Holy Spirit to rest with me and I love on Him and I allow Him to love on me.

        There will be times that you become so relaxed that you feel like you are falling asleep. I do not fight those urges either.

        What has helped me learn to sit still is seeing how overwhelmed I had become by trying to do so much without recharging! Your body, mind, and spirit will get very fatigue and this will not allow you to operate at your fullest potential.

        I got to a point in my life where God had to tell me consistently to “SLOW DOWN”! I thought I was doing great by staying busy busy busy…but for Him that was not what He wanted from me. He wanted my time…not my busyness.

        After doing it for a few days I began to see the benefit and the fruit of it…I was more relaxed, peaceful, and mentally charged to tackle the day. Once you see the fruit of sitting still you will have no problem taking the time out of your day to “soak” or be “still”. It almost becomes addicting so to speak :-)

        Start small and you will, without a problem, want to increase that time the more and more you practice it!

        I hope this has helped you get started, Aaron.

      • http://trillionsmall.com/ Trillion Small

        SImply doing it continuously is what helped me to break those distractions. Essentially it is making that paradigm shift and training our brains to “sit” still through practice. I let the thoughts go just as quick as they come. Hope that helps.

  • KeithFerrin

    My small group (and our whole church) walked through the book “An Invitation to Silence and Solitude” by Ruth Barton last fall. Developing this discipline is truly transformational. How can we hear from God or know who we are if we never listen to that “still, small voice?”

    The greatest lesson for me is that many of us “try” stillness and silence and get frustrated when it doesn’t “work for me.” I had to realize that it was going to take weeks before it felt natural to just sit and be still. It becomes easier…and better…the more I do it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a really good point, Keith. Like so many spiritual practices, it’s called “practice” for a reason!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Keith,
      I am a big Ruth Haley Barton fan. Have you read Sacred Rhythms?

      • KeithFerrin

        No. I haven’t. I’ll have to grab that one! Thanks for the tip Barry.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I just bought the audio version of this from Audible.com. I was pleasantly surprised to discover they had it. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • KeithFerrin

        Great! Let me know what you think Mike. It took me about 3-4 chapters before the reading and the “practice” found a rhythm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julie-Swihart/100003908965783 Julie Swihart

    Thanks for the helpful post on the importance of resting and being.

    I’d love to see a post on your mention of “living from the inside out.” Not always easy, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can and should do this.

  • Karen Fenz

    Several years ago I did this daily for almost a year. But I felt like a lone evangelical in the practice, though I did find it beneficial, so it was hard to keep it up without being able to share my experiences without my friends wondering if I’d gone off the deep end.  This post has encouraged me to try again.  I’m not alone!  (also an “Achiever” per SF).  The Catholics call the practice centering prayer – there are excellent materials available on the web.

  • jacobsr73

    I have tried stillness with little success, I guess if I really wanted to I could do it, but I find it extremely difficult to unplug.

  • abby

    I was blessed, when two of my friends, passed
    along this post to me today. I was intrigued by the word “stillness”, so I
    proceeded to read. Michael I am so proud of you for taking this step…a step
    of “choosing” each day to be still…a step that sadly many will never take. I
    am the author of the book “Living Still.” My life’s work is to passionately
    encourage others to experience transformation of spirit, mind and body by
    learning to practice “living still.” You see I hit rock bottom 10 years ago, at the age of
    24. My rock bottom included complete chaos. I suffered from extreme anxiety, control
    issues, depression and numerous addictions. My marriage was falling apart, as
    were my relationships with my entire family. My thoughts and words were filled
    with negativity and lies, and I had accumulated major credit card debt. As my
    problems piled up, they began to manifest physically through severe neck and
    back pain, as well as numbness in my left arm and left side of my face. I had no
    love for myself, no joy, no peace and no happiness. My entire life was in
    complete and utter chaos. In short, my life was completely transformed, by the
    simple act of me choosing to be still each and every day..taking minutes, hours
    and sometimes even days. Hard to believe huh? In my book Living Still I share
    my incredible transformation journey.

    Quote from Living Still…When we make the choice to be
    still before God, recognizing our great need for transformation, we open
    ourselves to knowing Him more deeply. As you get to know God in times of
    stillness, your heart and mind will gradually transform, and His love, peace and
    joy will begin to character­ize your life. His voice will guide you, not just
    when you are physically still, but as you
    live each day. You will begin to walk in peace as you rely on God’s strength,
    wisdom and direction rather than your own. Learning to rest in and be
    transformed by Him has a profound effect on every part of your being. You will
    be changed from the inside out.

    Thank you for lifting my spirits today
    Michael. I am always filled with joy when I see a person choosing to be still.
    Not only are you choosing to be still, you are sharing with others the
    importance of it. You are a blessing.
     

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Abby. Your book looks marvelous. I just bought it from Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • Shakenshine

    I have been studying Christian desert monasticism for a few years now.  The practice of contemplation desperately needs revival in American church culture.  We can hardly even find moments of silence in our church services.  We are so entertained. Yet we have all heard that God is most often found in the still small voice, as Elijah found to be true.  Our ability to be still and confront silence is more important to the spiritual life than we realize, yet I fear, very realized by the technological powers that be as we have less and less access to stillness as we evolve.  What unconventional time we once used for reflection or meditation – as we waited in line at the post office, or pumped gas – has nearly all but disappeared.  I recommend the writings of Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, also Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.  The Christian mystics all taught quiet prayer.

  • Kevan

    lovin it mike

  • Kenny Ashley

    Michael, I’m a pastor in Lamke Wylie, SC. I have been telling our folks fo a year now to take just five minutes a day and just don’t do or think anything. Most people had a very difficult time, but I encouraged them to keep it up. Now I have people who can spend an hour in quiet and peace and it feels like five minutes. The practice is literally transforming lives. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

    I’m shocked and stoked when I saw this post.  Michael, I’m proud of you, getting out of your comfort zone. Stillness is like a trust fall into the arms of God.

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com/ steveborgman

    Michael, thanks for sharing this!  You’re right: we find God and ourselves in the space that stillness creates.  I tend to be so addicted to noise in the form of media, or on my iPhone, that I’m really starving myself of the emotional wholeness that stillness brings.  I’m going to use my first half hour in the morning to make my coffee and sit out on my deck, enjoying nature and being still for my 15 minutes.

  • Briank Ives

    Tough thing for achievers to do, no doubt, but I think I will let some of that sink in.

  • Michael John Cusick

    Mike, so glad you are speaking about this.  I think stillness is the single most important thing a leader can do. Henri Nouwen wrote in “In the Name of Jesus,” “the (Christian) leader of the future must come to terms with his (or her) irrelevant self.” In my experience there is nothing like stillness to bring me in touch with our irrelevant self. And personally, stillness is such a struggle because it’s in stillness that I encounter all the things my busyness holds at bay.

    More and more empirical studies are showing evidence that stillness grows and develops neuropathways necessary for the development of things like love, compassion, and other-centeredness. In therapeutic circles (I’m a therapist) this is often referred to as “mindfulness” and is a rapidly growing practice for emotional and mental well being, as well as for leadership development, sports performance, and mental acuity.

    The idea of stillness has been so important personally and professionally, I wrote a chapter called “Less Is More,” in my recently released book “Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle.” The big idea of the chapter is that stillness, centering, intentionally doing nothing, are necessary ingredients for overcoming our compulsions and addictions.

    Two books you may want to take a look at are: (1) Mindsight, by Daniel Siegel (the science behind stillness) (2) Into the Silent Land, by Martin Laird (Our mutual friend Ian Cron introduced me to this book and it’s the best book I’ve read in years).

    I look forward to hearing more about how you experience transformation. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Michael. Very helpful. I bought the Laird book yesterday. I am eager to read it. All the best.

  • Johan Odén

    Hi Michael,

    I have followed your blog for years now, and I have really enjoyed many of your post. The recent ones surprise me some, why? In all my years in leadership the most important things I do every day is be still, relaxing forat least 15 min, and I really thought that this was something that you did. But congrats to a disission that will change your life :) I totaly agree with you that this is very important, as well as spending time for prayer everyday. Thanks for all your post and your book.

    // Johan

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  • http://twitter.com/systhink Matthew E. Weilert

    Congratulations Michael, you’ve made one of the hardest decisions in our media-obsessed Western world. As you’ve so insightfully quoted, the saints and the early desert fathers provide sign posts and mile markers on the road to holiness. For until we can manage and lead ourselves, how can we hope to lead and manage others? Blessings to you on your inward journey.

  • Susan Ekins

    I find it difficult to be still, but after a long day of being “busy,” I often wonder what exactly I accomplished. Maybe if I took the time to be still, I’d have more perspective on life. I also find that doing morning pages (3 pages of freewriting a day) helps me get the chatter out of my head for awhile. 

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    A tough word to follow–Be still!  I appreciate the gifts you share. First, you admit this hasn’t been a long practice. Then you offer practical steps (and I understand them–yay!) to follow. It will be interesting to see what develops (and if I can be both still and silent) from this practice.

  • Tsimonson636

    Thank you for your advice on stillness. I usually wake up in the morning, read the Bible and drink a cup of coffee. Today I practiced stillness and fell back asleep. I guess I needed more rest. At first I had a hard time quieting my mind as it is very active like yours. When I woke up, I felt more at peace and  read the Bible with a clearer sense of purpose. Thanks again.

  • LivingStill

    God is trying to tell all of us something. If only we would respond to
    His gentle calling to be still in His presence, choose to climb up on His lap and just
    be.

  • Cathy

    I very much enjoy Insight Timer on my iPhone.  Love the journal feature.  I’ve wanted to keep a journal but finding time is difficult.  This encourages me to type a few sentences (or more) each day, and works well for my gratitude practice.  I’ve made some interesting friends, as well, for those who might enjoy a social aspect.

  • Michellebriggs99

    You are a Benedictine!

  • http://www.reachinghurtingwomen.com/ Tamara

    Great column! A hearty (I mean a whisper quiet) amen from my yoga mat! I regularly practice stillness and meditation followed by yoga each morning.  My day simply isn’t the same without it. I’ve found the more I seek silence and stillness the more I crave it. 

  • Robert

    Walking in the woods; near a stream is best.  Just listening to the sound of nature.  The wind, the birds, the water; a creature scurring in the bush.  It is calming to know that all this exist without me doing just being a part of what is.

  • Jlbryants

    Great stuff!  Finally, someone who is a healthy thinker.  Bravo

  • Jefferyjames

    A great word. Thank you Michael. Ruth Haley Barton in her book Invitation to Silence and Solitude wrote “…you are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear”. I can’t believe that I have been a Christian for over 30 year and I am only just learning about things like “silence”. Great to see others are discovering it too. It has transformed my spiritual life and my leadership. The Transforming Center offers a leadership program called the Transforming Community. I can’t recommend it enough as a resource for Christian leaders.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I just started Ruth Barton’s book two days ago and am really enjoying it. Thanks.

  • Carolanncollins

    Quiet time is extremely important.  Quiet time enables you to know yourself and is the gateway to an examined life.   You must know that you are worthy and make a commitment to yourself before you are willing to claim quiet time for your benefit.
    It is easy to be distracted by the activities of our lives.  Fight for your time.

  • edwah zephaniah joshua

    I make it a lifestyle to believe Him who quickens those things that are dead, those things God says that be not but speaks as though they were, Rom.4:17 Because He telegraphs the thing wills to quicken and to Be, and I the privilege to believe for the thing not seen, yet spoken by the mouth of God and revealed to be believed.

    “The God of hope fill you with peace and joy in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit”, Romans 15:13

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    Practicing the art of stillness in our busy and fast-paced world is challenging. Yet over time, the habit of stillness leads to better insights for effective living. Excellent post!

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  • Pablo

    Michael I live in Israel and I recently wrote a book on this very verse Psalm 46:10. I called it Holding On Loosely. The words “be Still” In Hebrew mean Loosen your grip. My background is coaching tennis on the professional womens tennis tour where I worked over 7 years with some of the best players in the world. It was during this time that I learnt and taught my players how to enter the zone which led God to help me discover that is in this place within our new hearts that he lives and wants to fellowship with us….

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That is powerful. Thanks for sharing. I am sure I will use this in the future!

  • Pablo

    A bit more…the problem why we find it so hard to be still is that our ego lives in our minds and for it to survive it needs an event to identify with. These events are only found in the past or the future. When we spend time in either of these places we are absent and not present in our lives. God lives within our new hearts and it is there that we are eternal. In eternity there is no time but only the moment or present. Yet most of us live in the past or the present..this is why Jesus shared with us in Matthew 6 to not worry about tomorrow but to focus on what God was doing right now. Funny enough when God introduced himself to Moses he didnt say he was the great I was or I will but instead the great I am. Jesus when teaching us to pray told us to ask for the daily bread of today and thats all. God lives in the moment and if we want to live there with him then we need to learn to centre ourselves. Failure to do this will mean missing our lives and what God was doing while we were absent trying to figure out a better tomorrow….

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Beautiful.

  • Pablo

    would love to send you a copy…..

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great. I’d love to see it. Can you e-mail it? You can send it to michael at michaelhyatt dot com. Thanks.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com/ Nikole Hahn

    This really resonates with me. I unsuccessfully tried a lent to get some stillness,but I like this idea–of setting aside fifteen minutes a day to do nothing.  I just wonder if I can do it. I am also a doing person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686442200 Kristine McGuire

    I’m curious to learn how this “discipline of stillness” differs from Eastern Meditation.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t practice Eastern Meditation, so I’m not sure. Sorry.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686442200 Kristine McGuire

        You might want to check into the similarities between your description of your “stillness” practice and Eastern Meditation (a discipline I practiced for eight years before re-dedication to Christ). While I agree we need to find time to be quiet before the Lord, I do believe it’s important to be sure we are not blending wisdom literature or disciplines which are outside of scripture (“Be still and know that I am God” is not truly a call to inner stillness because there is a second half to that verse. It is rather a call to the nations to honor who God is). Thank you for taking the time to respond to my initial question.  Be blessed.

  • Pablo

    I am in Jerusalem this evening so will sen it first thing tomorrow morning. Shabat shalom!

  • http://www.unManage.com/ Karl Rohde

    There is so much pressure in our lives to do just the opposite of being still and we are reaping unsatisfactory results. I wrote an article on the problem with reacting which helped to clarify the impact of being busy for the sake of being busy. 
    http://www.unmanage.com/the-problem-with-reacting.html 

    On the converse this post by MH so well distils the benefit of the art of being still. Great post!!

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  • Susan Piver

    Being still with NO agenda for being still (i.e. not doing it to become more accomplished, more patient, more clear minded) is suggested. When we apply an agenda to our meditative practices, they lose their magic and potency. 

  • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

    This is the toughest of my weekly key actions, too.  Like you, I try to do mine early and with eyes closed.  However, I find that 2 elements help me get started.  One is a rhythmic breathing exercise (very rapid 30sec, very slow 60sec).  Second is prayer.  

    I feel like each of these primes the experience.  First, I have to concentrate on the breathing (which is an effective way of letting go and shoving aside the other junk swimming around in the noggin).  Second, I end a few minutes of prayer by posing a question or two on my mind…with hopes of direction during or after the quiet time, e.g. “Who needs me today?  What is the most important thing to do or learn today?”

    …then silence.   Tough, but golden.

    (Also, I use the timer on my watch to record 10-20min.  You’re right, sometimes it goes fast, other times I’m peeking after just 4-5min!)

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  • http://DadsCount.com/ Jim Ray

    Michael, thanks for this perspective.  I’ve made a point over the past several months to actively carve out my still-time in the morning.  That’s my chance to really reconnect and prepare for the new day.  

    I took the opportunity to link to your blog in my latest blog post:  http://dadscount.com/regarding-the-practice-of-stillness-by-michael-hyatt/.  I hope others will find your blog to be as helpful as I have.  Please keep up the great work, albeit at a slower pace (according to your latest post).

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GLGTIVZNQL6RJDDVWO6GFWASQE NELSON

    Always Knew that this is important; but was never willing to take the time to do it: I will begin today.

  • Fabulouslindalee

    Do you actually stop thinking when you are still? If you are conscious of the birds singing or the wind blowing around you, are you still? Because I don’t know if I can do entirely “nothing” but I know I need to try.

  • Matthew D. Upchurch

    My favorite Buddhist saying says: “the answers are not in the words but in the silence between the words.”  That’s why meditation is so powerful.  I believe in prayer AND I believe meditation is about listening for GOD.

  • Hjcarstens

    I am from SOUTH AFRICA where we have lots of sun……..so I call it SITTING IN THE SUN…….a time of relaxing…BODY , SOUL and SPIRIT. I do it whenever I feel very stressed. During these times I am RENEWED and REFRESHED!!!. I can recommend it to everyone…….During my Sitting In The Sum I get REVELATIONS and NEW INSIGHTS into LIFE. Hermanus Carstens

  • JohnnyRockets

    Just came to this post from the recommendation in Podcast #35.

    The one question I have is:

    How is this any different than just plain old meditation?

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  • Laura

    I practice stillness as often as possible. About once a month I get to practice it for 45 minutes-an hour. My husband watches our kids and I can get away. People are amazed he would do that – he knows I need it and has seen the incredible fruit from it.
    I blog daily for moms and in my blogs that are simple meditations to connect them with God I ask that they sit in silence for a minute before they read and for as much time as they have after they read the blog entry.
    I recently took a group through the exercise. Just 2 1/2 minutes of silence and they came out if it weeping as their souls were nourished.
    Silence is amazingly powerful. Thank you.

  • Margie

    Thanks so much for this insight and encouragement! This is the second great article I’ve read today mentioning stillness as very important (the other being on the Ancient Christian Wisdom blogsite and titled: Examining the Secret Things of the Heart vs. the Secret Things of Others) So I’m beginning to think I need to get into this! :) God bless you!

  • Anthony Ward

    The description of “stillness” is a mirror of the practice of  “vipassana meditation” – an ancient meditation now making a worldwide resurgence – first taught by Buddists,  and now being practiced across the world – just observing the breath, remaining equanimous, being still and in the present moment.  Non sectarian practice with life enriching qualities – find a group near you and try out – 10 day retreats teach you how to learn this life affirming meditation technique without fear of some religious hook – one of the best things I ever did for myself – learn how to “be’ and not “do’. find out for yourself…..

  • Tim

    I am currently looking for a new position.  That a lame way of saying I am out of work.  But even without the usual “Get there by eight!” mentality, I find I still need a time of stillness, perhaps even more now than when I was working a scheduled day.  
    I like the timer idea and will begin in the morning.

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  • Gaurav

    I came across a new website called calm.com which helps you do this in very efficient way where you can time bound and have great background voice over a to help you achieve stillness.

  • D.A.

    Excellent article. I’ll be reading this again for sure. I’ve practicing stillness pretty regularly for the past year almost and it has been an amazing journey to say the least. There are so many twists and turns within each and every mind, it makes sense to me now why human conflict has no end in sight. I sit still usually in the morning or early evening when I get home. I’m going to try your advice and schedule a regular time in the mornings before I head out for the day. For me, it has been about developing an understanding of what is really important to me and not just living my life how society says I should; go to school, get a good job, get married, make babies, work until you retire or die, etc.
    Another big reason is the same as what you said about maintaining perspective. When my mind is open to stillness it feels like I am able to just receive the world without feeling the need to project anything onto it, good or bad. My hope is that I can reach a level of stillness where I can maintain it indefinitely, but I realize that’s probably never gonna happen.

  • Erich Robinson

    Great thoughts! I definitely needed to read that today as an Achiever who just finished a big project (Men’s Conference with Bob Goff). Here are some resources I’ve shared that have been helpful for me in this area:
    http://resourcesforus.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/three-resources-to-help-you-deal-with-an-overloaded-life/
    http://resourcesforus.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/three-books-by-richard-swenson/
    http://resourcesforus.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/three-problems/

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the link to Andy Stanley’s series, Breathing Room. It looks awesome!

      • Erich Robinson

        You’re welcome, I think you’ll love Andy’s series.

  • Suzanne Howard

    I tease my husband about his “nothing box”. He can go to a place in his mind and think about nothing. I stand outside the box trying to get in or create my own. It is difficult. I do sleep with waves on for white noise, I will try it with quiet time. Harmony is one of my strengths and all of the noise can be less than harmonious. I try to disconnect, but I work in a ministry where there is always something that needs my attention. I will do this tomorrow morning. Blessings to all!

  • Audrey

    I finally got the habit to practice stillness and I feel that thanks to this I speak slower :)

  • Vartooka

    I’ve been practicing a combination of stillness and contemplation for over 23 years using a little known book called Steps to Knowledge – The Book of Inner Knowing. It is a set of daily practices that help focus my mind. These practices have made all the difference in my life. Some of the steps are “In stillness all things can be known.” “Stillness is the acceptance of profound love.” “Stillness is my gift to the world.” I have found through practicing stillness that the importance of it cannot be overestimated.

  • Ruth Marriott

    I find inner stillness by taking a walk in the woods – I find the physical engagement and sights and sensations really help me refocus, to get ‘out of my head’ and into my present environment. It’s a discipline necessary for my sanity in an otherwise digitally saturated job. Even though I’m an introvert and this should come naturally, the draw of the virtual world still pulls strongly in the other direction. Thanks for the really practical tips; I hope many will put them into practice and reap the benefits.

  • http://www.homeschool-your-boys.com Michelle Caskey

    As a homeschooling mom with teenage boys, this is so important! I need to be intentional or this would never happen. Because of my situation, it helps for me to go on a walk in the woods by myself. This enables me to be alone and to quiet my mind much more readily than if I were surrounded by my boys. Thanks for the tips, Michael! :)

  • Yvonne

    My blog is so small that it won’t mean much to you but I mentioned your blog in my blog today at http://yvonneeele.wordpress.com/ . Thanks for the reminder of the importance of being still.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Yvonne. I appreciate that.

  • Edna Etouda

    Wow! There is actually a topic on Stillness. I get still near the lake with the waters lapping on the shoreline, and I hear the loon of in the distance. I love the quiet and the stillness of Nature, but like everyone else, I need to set time out for Stillness. When I do, I love every moment of it.

  • Kamil

    I will definitely do this. I lack stillness in my life. Sometimes when I get back home at night I just stare at the sky for a few minutes. Now that I have read this post I will do this more often.

  • Phyllis Daniel Jackson

    I have been practicing being in the silence for over twenty years. I started choosing a time in the morning but for many years, I have been able to hold this awareness through out the day. I have been blessed with clarity of mind, quick access to solutions to my problems, an increased feeling of peace and an overwhelming knowing that I am one with all of creation. It is awesome!