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When someone asked me, “How are you doing?” a few years ago, I would usually say fine, and give my biggest, fakest smile. The real answer to that question was “stressed out of my mind,” but most of the time, the question “How are you?” is perfunctory and not an actual inquiry — and so we answer politely out of habit. But if you asked me that question today I would answer “fine,” and truly be fine (not insanely stressed).
That said, event though I’ve made progress, I still find myself filling any free moment I have with busyness. Even though I have fewer stressors in my life, I occasionally feel like I should be busier and start creating unnecessary stress to fill the void.
If you struggle with stress, self-imposed or not, have I got a woman for you. She’s a 19th-century Carmelite named Sister Marie-Aimee of Jesus, and she wrote a little book called The Twelve Degrees of Silence.
Sister’s intent was to help people attain inner silence so that they could know God better. But I have found that if you look at her steps today, you can use them more superficially to help fight day-to-day busyness and stress. When you get rid of extra stress, acquiring a lasting inner peace becomes attainable.
Check out these 6 touch points from Sister Marie-Aimee, and see if you can find any ways to change your routine in response to them.
1Silence of words
We’re inundated with communication every day. For example, texting. Are all of the texts you send necessary, or could you cut back on some texts and free up that mental space? Could you set a few times during the day that you send messages and then not text in between those times? That might allow you to have some clearer headspace.
2Silence of movements/actions
Ever noticed a nervous tic you have? For a while I would shake my leg when I was thinking or bored. When someone pointed it out to me, I realized the constant motion was not actually helping me, and worked to change that habit. Try to find some movements or actions that you do in a day that are just fillers, and are actually making you less calm and more busy.
3Silence of imagination
Do you spend a lot of time during the day thinking about what the future will look like? That might be what you’re doing tomorrow, or what you’re doing when you get home tonight, or what you’re doing for lunch. Regardless of how far into the future you are looking, it is better to focus on the present moment if you want to foster inner peace.
4Silence of memory
Dwelling too much on the past, especially if you get caught up in negative memories, is detrimental to staying peaceful. Stop taking trips down memory lane so often.
5Silence to people/situations
(She calls this point “silence to creatures,” and I’ve changed it here.) One way to stay trapped is by replaying situations or conversations over and over in your head unnecessarily. That constant loop will trip you up and rob you of your peace over and over again.
6Silence of feelings
How you feel is important, but it is possible to become too focused on those feelings. When you give extra weight to your emotions, they can and do ruin any ounce of peace you might have had. Keep in mind that you can always choose to do something despite your feelings, especially when you know what you should do but just don’t want to.
What can you do today to foster inner peace? Find one small step to take immediately to get rid of a tiny sliver of stress. If you can get rid of a sliver, you can see that more peace is a tangible possibility.
Why it’s important to foster silence in your home