Author: Jaret Betkoski
In 1654, the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” About 366 years later, these words have never applied more to our lives. These days, we are constantly bombarded with emails, notifications and many other distractions. Instead of helping us, these constant interruptions are taking a toll on not only our personal lives, but the most important thing we have: our mental health. While identifying these distractors as the problem, we must come up with solutions next. We need a resolution that makes us actually feel good and want to be the best we can be. The solution to our problems lies in stillness.
Stillness is where we feel happiness and contentment. It’s where our best work and decisions come from. This isn’t some new trend or lifestyle hack; this is a real and appreciated change that we can strive for starting right now. Now that we’ve identified the solution, the question becomes how do we achieve stillness in our own lives? Stillness comes in three parts. It emerges when our mind, spirit and body are all at peace. Being present is the most important and valuable thing we can do. We hear stories all the time of when a father and mother give their daughter up to be married. They wonder where the time has gone. The present is a gift, that’s why we call it the present, so why would we pollute our minds with pointless information that we deem will help us when it only further disconnects us from reality. When our mind is at peace, stillness becomes one step closer.
When our emotions, character and soul are at bay, stillness becomes easier. Our calming spirit lies in realizing when we have enough. While at a house party of some boring and low life billionaire, Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse Five, and Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, were conversing and raging to one another. Vonnegut asked Heller, “Joe, how does it feel that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel has earned in its entire history?” Heller responds calmly, “I’ve got something that he can never have… the knowledge that I’ve got is enough.” Enough comes from the inside. It’s when we calm down, self-reflect and see what we already have. Then we ask ourselves if we really need the things we have. We don’t need to get rid of all our possessions if we realize we have enough, but we should constantly question what we own, why we own it and whether we could do without it.
While having a calm unwavering mind and spirit, the last piece of the puzzle is when our body is at peace and we are treating it right. While we don’t have to be physically built like our favorite athletes, we should build a healthy lifestyle and routine that will make us live a long and fulfilled life. Every day for the majority of his adulthood, Mr. Rogers would wake up at 5 a.m. to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer. Next, he would go swim laps at the Pittsburgh Athletic Center. Finally, before heading off to shoot another episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, he would weigh himself making sure he always weighed 143 pounds symbolizing the phrase “I love you”. This routine worked for him because it was something that encompassed all three major parts of stillness. While we don’t have to be meticulous like this, we should build routines that serve us. For example, simply taking long uninterrupted walks accomplishes two things, exercising and staying present. When we build self-serving routines and our body is healthy, we have completed the puzzle to stillness.
Stillness is far from easy with all of the distractions we have, but if we truly want to be free from all the obstacles this world has to offer, it’s the best way to go. It’s going to be difficult at first, we may have trouble getting all three in check, yet that’s ok. Stillness is not this “obtain it and you’re set for life” goal, it’s far from it. Stillness is accomplished through constant and unwavering determination to get better. It’s a lifelong practice. Yet it’s a lifelong practice that is worth it for those wanting a more complete and still life.