We all want relaxation and peace, but the fact is we can’t stand it! Stillness and silence, which are the means of finding inner peace, are often far too scary. The thought of not talking, sitting still, and listening to the silence feels unnerving and seems purposeless to many.

Our craving for peace and relaxation is evident in the many spas and yoga centers springing up everywhere, but we can only find the peace and relaxation we seek within the stillness of our own minds. Without that stillness, our lives remain infected with a chronic busyness that keeps us going, doing, and running. This speed and activity deafens us to the call of our soul and, sadly, we have mistaken this restlessness as the need for materiality rather than the need for spirituality. This desperate pursuit is actually masking our fear of emptiness and loneliness. The result? We keep on moving further away from ourselves, until it seems as if we start living next door to who we really are.

It’s true at first, when we tune into ourselves, we may encounter the grief and ache of our hearts that have been used, bruised or broken. Yet if we develop a simple practice of turning within and being still, we can find ‘the kingdom of heaven within us’. We can’t find peace in fancy holidays, home security alarms, or credit cards as the media promises. It’s inside us. Ironically, it’s the last place we tend to look.

So why do we keep running like this? Because it is terrifying to let go of our busyness. Our accomplishments and productivity have become synonymous with our worth in today’s world. In our desperate race to be accepted for what we do rather than who we are, we believe the more we get done and the more we accomplish means the more we’ll be loved. We even admire and respect workaholics. The true impetus for all this feverish striving is actually the impatient call of our soul. It is our yearning to find peace, relaxation, and quietness so that we may experience the true nature of our being. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Our life is a long arduous quest after Truth.”

So if we yearn for it, then why don’t we go for it? The simple answer is habit. Many of us who grew up in unpredictable families developed a kind of hyper-vigilance, a need to always be “on” and be on the lookout for the next crisis, drama, or disappointment to manage. We may have learned to associate silence and quietness at home with a crisis brewing, or the punishing silent treatment.

Because we felt overwhelmed and scared by the chaos and the unpredictability, we learned to hide, run, or move faster by getting involved in constant activities. The faster we moved, the less we would be noticed, and the safer we felt. Today, this habit persists.

In my therapy work, I like to direct people within, to help them experience themselves from the inside, and contact their own wisdom and intuition. For many this is very difficult at first. Instead, they want to explain, dissect, or analyze. But just watching and being mindful in stillness is the first step toward finding the answers they need and connecting with the possibility of relaxation and inner peace. Mother Theresa said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks.” It doesn’t matter how much you change your life on the outside, you still must slow down on the inside. You can live a full life, even a busy life and still be relaxed if inside you maintain calmness.

Stillness and silence should serve as the scaffolding of our lives. If we want to hear the voice of our soul and our guiding intuition so they can help us find our way, we must be still. The bottom line is; there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go but to be closer to ourselves.

In the end, we need to have a balance between activity and stillness, the call of materialism and the call of spirituality.

Experiment with spending half a day (or a full day) completely alone in silence. Take time to walk, eat, wash, rest and relax in silence. Do everything slowly and mindfully with the goal of having your full, undivided attention in the moment, on everything within and around you. Turn off your phone, radio, TV, internet and music. Arrange ahead of time not to be available to talk to anyone. Be silent and listen within.

Claire Maisonneuve, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Director of the Alpine Anxiety and Stress Relief Clinic
First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 175 – 2010