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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.

538 views3 comments


michael fennell
michael fennell
Mar 23, 2023

Precious Stillness is a mental state of mind where the incessant thinking comes to rest. Meditation can help to bring this about. A wise man has said that “the ultimate end of meditation is to reach to total immobility or the profound stillness. No metre can measure it , it is without end. “

Such depth requires a lot of practice of course !


Celia Burns
Celia Burns
Mar 23, 2023

For me - weeding the allotment, planting up hanging baskets, a week in Yorkshire in Autumn every year, walking in Sutton Park, looking after my granddaughter, sitting in church, having a long bath or shower. Some of these don't happen as often as they should, (I do shower daily, just not for 30 minutes!) and other things that gave me that PS have gone from my life altogether - eg playing my piano. The key thing is being present in the moment I think. Trying to remember not to make oneself "productive" all the time. When I am with Penelope, I have nothing else to do - and indeed must not try as she needs my care and attention all…

Chris Barrow
Chris Barrow
Mar 23, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Celia

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