The Joy of Stillness : An Exclusive Renegade Health Article by Dr. J.E. Williams

Friday Jan 6, 2012 | BY |
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Yoga and meditation are great ways to ‘unplug’ from our digitally connected world, which leaves us little time for quiet.

Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM

On the first day of 2012, I went to the beach. The Gulf of Mexico was calm and reflective, and warm enough that I could take in the winter sun. During the holidays, I don’t go to cocktail parties, or raw vegan celebrations, or drum circles. This is because in order to have time to write – a solitary deliberate excursion into creativity – I require absolute quiet. To have time to think, a prerequisite to good writing, I need silence. For meditation, not only does the practice foster stillness, it requires utmost quite. And, as a clinician, I’ve found that healing requires all three: stillness, quiet, and a silent mind.

In our digitally connected world, shuttled about by cars, planes, and high-speed trains, where is the time for quiet? Or, for healing? Or, for balance?

As Americans, we spend too much time in front of a screen. The average American logs at least eight hours each day sitting and watching television or sitting and browsing the Internet. Electronic communication is almost instant. Texting and emailing, and social networking reaches friends, family, and followers across the globe. But, when do we find time for ourselves?

“The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context.” Pico Iyer wrote this in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, and he is perfectly right.

If that larger context is meditation, or writing, or personal healing, then too much noise, too many distractions, too much time surfing the Internet for answers to personal problems, including chronic disease, is counterproductive. So, why not do it less?

When things come at you fast, like on the Internet, you lose track of yourself. Discerning thinking, exactly the mental effort necessary to sort through the confusing information presented online, gets side tracked. Without good filters and an impenetrable firewall in place, “breaking news” and retail sales pitches pop up on the screen every few minutes. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn messages, and instant notes from Skype or Yahoo jump up, distracting us from the onslaught of streaming data. One would have to have the machine mind of a Data on Star Trek to process it all.

What to do about it presents its own dilemma, one that distracts us from our comfort zone of distraction. For one, you can connect to wise traditions that foster stillness. Practice yoga or Buddhist meditation, or “play” Tai Chi. (The Chinese way of describing the practice of Tai Chi, an exercise that leads one to the path of effortlessness, uses the term for play, not practice, the latter which implies effort.) In the very least, get away from the screen. Think less about yourself, and more about the welfare of others. Do more good in your community and the world. Get in a long walk – stroll, don’t run. And, leave the head phones at home. Bird song is more healing, and it’s free.

In my own case, when I get up, I enter my garden to water plants and see what changes the night made. Then, before opening email or reading text messages, I write for an hour. After that I do yoga asana practice (in the evening I meditate), and only then do I shower and eat, and then gear up for a fast paced day. A few times a year, I disconnect. Since 2000, I’ve been traveling to Peru, where I live and work with indigenous tribes. I walk and canoe, letting the ageless pace of life reset my nervous system. And, of course, I unplug. I come back more relaxed and energized — calmer, clearer, happier.

Slowing down might be the best New Year’s resolution you ever made. It just might be the newest health trend you were looking for.

Click here to read the NY Times article by Pico Iyer.

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J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. J. E. Williams is a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, longevity, and natural health. Dr. Williams is the author of six books and more than two hundred articles. During his thirty years of practice, Dr. Williams has conducted over 100,000 patient visits. Formerly from San Diego, he now practices in Sarasota, Florida and teaches at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Division of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, NOVA Southeastern University, and Emperor’s College in Los Angeles.

He is also an ethnographer and naturalist. Since 1967, he has lived and worked with indigenous tribes, and spends as much time in the high Andean wilderness and deep Amazonian rainforest as possible. In 2010, he founded AyniGLOBAL, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting indigenous cultures, environments, and intellec¬tual rights. His current work is with the Q’ero people of the Peruvian Andes, where he teaches Earth-based wisdom and heart-centered spirituality.

For more information: www.drjewilliams.com

Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/drjewilliams

9 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Carrie says:

    A nice post and a nice reminder :)

  2. Yamina says:

    Really the most interesting post I’ve read from Dr Williams !
    Silence ! For me, it is like green juice for vegans ! I must have my fix every day ! I love this hassidic story : Schlomo goes to see a famous rabbi : “- Oh ! Rabbi, I admire so much Moses ! He’s so marvelous ! So great ! I wish to be him ! – But Schlomo, if you were Moses, who would be Schlomo ? Who ?”
    We all have to be ourselves before anything-one else. Thks and happy new year !

  3. i wish i can include this once up one a time.

  4. sharon says:

    It’s weird how one knows that communing with nature and connecting with the Earth (Earthing) makes one feel better, yet the addiction of the information on the internet is a strong pulling force.

  5. maca says:

    So simple, yet so difficult to do for many people. I agree with Yamina that this is one of Dr Williams’ best posts. I will take heed.

  6. Angela F. says:

    I know the importance of this and sometimes wonder what it would be like to be totally disconnected. I admire Dr. Williams for his work. I am back in my nursing program today and know it will be a hectic 5 months. I will do my best to incorporate disconnect time and spiritual listening to promote my own health so I can help those around me.

  7. Maria says:

    I have been doing TM for over 15 years, and have noticed how I gradually gravitated toward stillness. I think that the meditation in helping me disconnect from the noise in my mind has also helped me notice useful vs. wasteful noise in my life and all around me.

    I find that I am most happy in silence. It is the only way I know how to meet the moment with my own presence, and to me that is the only way to enjoy my time on this earth.

  8. Alan says:

    I just read this article after a half day communing with nature in the forest. It was a beautiful sun soaked day with a little wind and a coolness that was just right. I mediated for an hour and just spent time amongst creation where my mental clatter always slows down to some degree.

    I can’t agree more with this article. I’ve been really trying everything to improve my impaired digestion except what I need the most…. calm healing silence every day. I’m really going to try to take this advice to heart. Thanks!!!

  9. LynnCS says:

    Lovely. I like Dr. Williams very much. Thank you for bringing him to us. Lynn

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