Ryan Holiday’s book Stillness Is the Key is an absolute delight. I know you’ll enjoy reading it.
It’s split into three main sections – Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Every major religion and philosophy has a concept of inner peace, or stillness. This is considered the highest good and key to a happy life and peak performance.
So why wouldn’t you want to achieve it?
Everyone has the capacity to be in the moment with mindfulness. So why don’t we?
Because it takes consistent practice every day. And this book helps you see the benefits as well as easier ways to work it into your life. You’ll also read about famous people who used stillness to make truly life and world altering decisions.
How to Create Stillness In Your Mind
This section opened with an insider’s look at what really happened in October, 1962 when the US president John F. Kennedy had to find stillness to craft a strategy that would allow the United States to seem strong while still open to working with the then USSR.
To be a leader, you need to clearly see the big picture.
And we all need to be leaders in our own lives to ignite our inner brilliance. The book then went on with a lot of different ways to still your mind, as well as looking at what is the definition of a still mind.
This Way Surprised Me
One of the easiest ways to still your mind is to limit the inputs you allow. This means turning off television, and constant alerts. This is often called the “CNN Effect,” and is caused by 24 hour media coverage.
Often, there is nothing new to report, so the media has to try to describe nothing in new and scary ways. We’re surrounded by gossip and drama and distractions.
Turn off all the noise.
If you need to know something, you will find it out at the right time.
Believe it or not, this has been a problem for a long time. Epictetus once said “If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters.”
Common Ways Done Uncommonly
While the book has many more ways of finding stillness in your mind, I wanted to mention three easy things you can start doing today that will bring you peace.
First is our old friend the journal. The chapter on journaling focused on Anne Frank, and how her diary allowed her to cope during an unimaginably stressful time.
Her ability to get negative feelings and thoughts out of her head allowed her to be kinder when actually dealing with people.
Second is to be present. Often we spend too much time worrying about the future or agonizing over the past. It’s important to learn how to let things go and be in the now in order to truly have peace.
Finally, it’s important to slow down. This may appear to be similar to being present. However, they’re different skills.
When you slow down, you give yourself the ability to think deeply and be present. And you start to see things around you that are useful. This chapter’s focus was Fred Rogers of the American children’s tv show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.
Mr. Rogers favorite quote was “What’s essential is invisible to the eye.”
So we need to slow down to let all the inputs have a chance to get processed.
Finding Joy In Silence
I wanted to specifically mention this chapter as well.
How many of us are uncomfortable with silence?
As Ryan Holiday mentions, too much of our lives is defined by noise. Headphones go in so we can better hear our own noise. Televisions are playing everywhere.
People are now talking on their phones while out walking or exercising.
But when we can become comfortable with silence, our brains start to function better. And we can start solving more complicated problems, or crafting big ideas.
Building Up Your Spirit for Stillness
In this section the author explains about the inner battle that goes on within all of us. He looks at all the steps that we need to pacify the domain of the spirit while purifying our hearts, emotions, passions, and our drivers.
Ryan Holiday quotes the monk Thich Nhat Hanh who said of humanity, “On the surface of the ocean there is stillness, but underneath there are currents.”
All of us are dealing with the currents in our souls. And we need to come to terms with them so we can find inner peace.
I’ll look in more depth at the few methods that really spoke to me.
Belief In A Higher Power
In these modern times, most people don’t want to have to believe in God. Belief in a higher power isn’t really about believing in God. It’s about surrender and faith.
When you admit that there’s something bigger than you out there, you accept that there are things outside of your control. And learning acceptance of this will lead you to inner peace.
Have a New Relationship with Desire
The Buddhists call insatiable desire inside of all of us a “hungry ghost.”
These ghosts rob us of inner peace and joy because we’re constantly focused on that which we do not have.
We often see this in famous actors and athletes. They appear to have everything in the world, but then they do something that ruins all of their happiness.
What Is Enough?
This may seem similar to changing your relationship with desire, but it’s a separate skill.
You will find true peace when you feel as though you have plenty.
This is gratitude.
Honoring Your Body with Peace
I’ve written before about the direct connection between a body at peace and a healthy body.
Your mind can directly affect your body.
Ryan Holiday had a lot of wonderful suggestions for finding stillness in your body. These were my favourites.
Finding Joy In Routines
Do you think a routine is too confining? Are you the type that likes to just take life as it comes?
Routines don’t have to be boring. You can turn them into rituals which allows you to honor your body.
For example, if you wake up, meditate, and then journal every morning, that is a routine which is also a ritual honoring your soul.
Having solid routines also allows your body and mind to get more creative. For example, if you drink a certain type of tea before a meeting, you’re triggering your brain to be more alert. If you play certain types of music when you’re focusing, you’re alerting your body that it’s time to focus.
Learning to Enjoy Your Own Company
Remember how awkward silence can be? Well part of learning to enjoy silence is also learning to enjoy your own company.
You can build up your appreciation of yourself by taking up a hobby and scheduling time regularly each week to practice and enjoy it.
The Two Things You Really Need to Do
The two things you need to give your body is a good night’s sleep and regularly walk.
Walking is different than exercise. It’s a better way of getting out into nature and experiencing the world around you.
My Final Thoughts
I can only give you a light pass when I do these book reviews. I try to find the bits that make you curious and want to read more.
Stillness is the kind of book I’ll read a few times since I know I’ll get more out of it each time. There are so many facets to my body, mind, and soul. And as I grow, I need different lessons.
As do you.
When you first read this book, write down what you think is the most important lesson for you right now.
Then in six months, read this book again and write down what you think is the most important lesson for you at that moment. For fun, go back to what you thought was most important, and then journal on how you used that knowledge to ignite your life in the past six months.