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a blog by Chris Barrow

Why we need to seek out more "precious stillness"

During a drive home one evening last week, I happened upon the latest episode of "The Digital Human", a regular feature on BBC Radio 4 and available HERE as a download.

The title captured my interest, as presenter Aleks Krotoski wanted to interview guests on the subject of "Retreat" - how we escape from the noise of the modern world.

The guests included a New York resident who has created a web site version of her apartment (where she lives in solitude) and a young Englishman who, having narrowly survived Covid-19, took refuge in a remote Scottish cottage to explore his emotions.

I'll admit that it's not a very chirpy podcast and, in some parts, quite sad (interviews include those with elderly widowers who have formed their own self-help community in East Lothian to escape their loneliness) but I was engaged and ultimately uplifted by the message.

Towards the end of the 30-minute broadcast, Aleks uses a phrase that immediately resonated with me.

She described the "precious stillness" of removing ourselves from "the noise" I mentioned above.

It has really had me thinking about how much of my time as a coach is spent listening to those who never escape from "the noise" and are exhausted and overwhelmed as a result.

Yesterday's post announced the webinar I'll be running with Mark Topley on "Overcoming Overwhelm" on Monday 3rd April - HERE.

I've listened to so many burned out people since the turn of the year that it seemed essential to do something about it.

Last night, I stayed at The Holiday Inn, Peterborough and was hoping to fit in a swim and sauna (precious stillness) but disappointed to find their facility closed for refurbishment. After reaching inbox zero in my hotel room, I popped down to the hotel restaurant for a solo dinner before an early night.

The restaurant included a fair number of independent travellers like myself, clearly all on work-related journeys.

To a man and woman, they were eating whilst staring at smartphone screens. Their only human contact, the waitress serving them.

Me too.

And as I caught up with several back issues of "The Mill" (the independent online newspaper that focuses on events around Manchester) I equally pondered whether this qualified as "precious stillness".

The last time I stayed at this hotel was about 18 months ago and, the morning after my stay, I took an 06:00 run along the banks of the nearby River Nene. I remember a frosty morning, with frozen mist over Orton Lock and the graceful swans regarding me with curiosity and wariness as I passed by.

I really miss my early morning runs but Achilles tendinopathy has put paid to that for the time being - instead, I nowadays set my alarm for 05:00 every weekday and spend 30 minutes reading good literature before the day starts.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation with Colin Campbell when, after listening to my self-pity on not being able to run when I travel he asked "why don't you go for a walk?" - Doh.

That's what I should be doing this morning - just a 30-minute walk along the river wouldn't get me marathon fit - but it would give me that moment of calm before the storm.

Where in our busy lives do we get our precious stillness?

For me:

  • Reading for the first 30 minutes of each day;

  • Reading for the last 30 minutes of each day;

  • Walking the dogs with Annie at 17:00 when I'm home and the schedule allows;

  • Walking the dogs with Annie at weekend;

  • Riding my road bike - yay - I'm back;

  • A very occasional hotel swim and sauna;

  • Two weeks in Greece every July - our sanctuary;

  • Walking anywhere with Annie;

  • Walking with friends;

  • Just walking - I finished a busy tour of Ireland a couple of weeks ago, arrived back at the Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport and just took a leisurely walk around Santry Park in the early evening - it was beautiful, peaceful and allowed me to gather my thoughts;

  • A recent new discovery - reading Peppa Pig to a granddaughter.

For you:

  • Here's an exercise - write a bullet point list of your moments of "precious stillness';

  • Perhaps even share them as a comment on this blog or on social media;

  • Think about what percentage of your time you invest in that oasis of calm;

  • Plan for more.

I had to remind a burned out man and wife team earlier this week of the famous quote from writer and philosopher Wayne Dyer that "nobody in a cancer ward wished they has spent more time at the office."

My message this morning - seek more "precious stillness" in your life.

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