The Importance of Being Still

By Johanna Seltzer

Can you be still? I mean really still. For just 5 minutes. No scratching or fidgeting. Quiet the mind. Focus on the breath.

You might be saying that’s impossible, your day is already full with early morning planning and development meetings; answering emails and responding to social media; fundraising appointments; marketing strategy sessions; budget reviews; artistic decisions; production issues; and that grant application, it’s due by 5:00 p.m.

Our lives as arts administrators require us to be in constant motion, propelling us forward into overdrive. Information is at our fingertips. Technology has made us reachable at any hour. Have you recently seen a position announcement that didn’t include the word “multi-task”? The result of this endless motion is an unbalanced mind, and, therefore, an unhealthy body. How can we move to a neutral state, one where our minds can be idle and recharge?

We can practice meditation.

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s probably similar to what I used to tell myself, “Oh yeah, meditation, I know it’s good for me, I’ll get around to it someday.” But the truth was I didn’t know how to meditate, and maybe I was a little apprehensive about what calming down just might do for me. In my director positions at Dance/MetroDC and Joy of Motion Dance Center in Washington, D.C., I juggled the work of several departments. How could I find the time, and would I lose my edge and ability to remain on top of everything?

What I found was just a few minutes of meditation made a profound difference in my life, and how I related to others. Here’s what I noticed:

  • I’m less reactive to situations.
  • I’m more patient with others.
  • I can effectively handle the stress in my life.
  • I think more clearly.
  • I sleep better.
  • I can actually multi-task more efficiently!

Additional benefits of meditation may include decreased muscle pain and headaches, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, help with depression, enhanced immune system, and much more.

Can you afford not to practice meditation?

Currently, as a yoga instructor, people mention to me that they can’t relax in yoga, or sit still, that they need a strenuous workout in order to feel better. There is much to be said for an endorphin rush of aerobic exercise, however, to balance the body and mind, we need to counter this activity with something quiet. We need to give our minds a workout!

Interested? I hope so. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Choose a time to practice and stick to it. Make it a priority. I find that first thing in the morning is right for me, before my children are awake. Start with 3 minutes a day and slowly increase your time. Most importantly, don’t be concerned if you miss a day, or two, just pick your practice back up the following day.
  2. Find a comfortable place to sit. Elevate your hips so they are higher than your knees, this helps to relax the hip flexors, and straighten the spine. Use a meditation cushion, yoga blankets, or a yoga block. Try using a chair if the other options are uncomfortable.
  3. Align the body. Lengthen the spine by reaching down into the earth with your sitz bones, and the crown of the head to the sky. Draw the shoulder blades down the back, open the heart, and rest your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes.
  4. Take a moment to dedicate your practice to benefit yourself and others.
  5. Start to focus on your breath, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. You don’t need to breathe deeply while practicing, a normal breath is fine.
  6. As thoughts enter the mind (and they will!), take a moment to recognize the thought and then release it through your next exhale. Another technique is to label the thought, such as “work,”, “kids,” “hunger,” etc., by redirecting the brain in this way, you release the thought! Continue to bring your mind back to the breath.
  7. When your time has finished (I use a timer), give yourself a minute to stretch and reflect on your practice. Each day will be different. Allow yourself to honor these day-to-day fluctuations without judgment; this awareness will bring new perspective and understanding.

Remember that this is all practice. As we sit we discover new insights about ourselves, which is not only important, it’s essential to leading a healthy lifestyle. Who knew being still could create such transformational change?

If you’ve been inspired to practice, please share your experience!

Johanna Seltzer, RYT 200, has been teaching since 1991, beginning in dance, and currently in the yogic tradition. She holds a B.A. in dance from the University of Maryland, and a graduate certificate in arts management from American University. Johanna also serves as a consultant for the Dance Heritage Coalition and Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, D.C., and blogs about yoga and wellness for the Mount Vernon (Va.) Patch. She strives to meditate each morning, as long as her two children are still asleep. For more information, contact her @innerlightyogi.


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