Stop and Stand Still

There is a wonderful statement made by one of the world’s great modern artists, Lee Ufan. This quote comes from Ufan’s “Marking Infinity” exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in the summer of 2011.  The statement speaks directly to you and me and the stressful times in which we live:

Ufan is inviting us to see what happens in us when we let go of the stress and strain around us and for a moment wake-up to the miracle of life.  But how do you stand still when you’re rushed by deadlines, to-do lists and an endless stream of people, meetings and demands?  Where do you find the chance to stop and be still?

Reflect on it for a moment.  Isn’t standing still the polar opposite of the obsessive-compulsive way you work when you’re really stressed?  At those times you probably sense that you need to shift gears, but doing so can seems difficult, if not impossible.

The truth is, not shifting gears is a big part of what is making things so difficult.  Standing still in the way Lee Ufan suggests could not be easier and involves a small investment of time. Make the investment and Ufan promises the return to you will be something of a miracle.  Actually, the only investment you need to make is framing your day differently from the way you do at present.

There’s three simple ways of stepping back from the rat race and standing still for a moment.  Let’s break down each one.



The first way is to start your day in quiet. When I ask clients how they start the day they often say: I gulp down three cups of coffee, shower, and drive straight into a traffic jam.  There is a much better way to start your day.  It takes only five minutes but helps to frame the day in a positive, forward moving manner.  It’s very simple.

Start the morning by sitting somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed.
Close your eyes or take a downward gaze. Tilt your head toward your heart and follow your breathing. Feel each breath softening your heart and opening your mind.

After a moment, allow yourself to feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life. It’s never guaranteed, so feel the wonder of being gifted with another day.  Feel gratitude for being given another day with the people you love.

Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achievements.  Commit to being at peace today. Imagine yourself able to sustain a dynamically peaceful and positive state of mind, regardless of what might be happening around you. Then open your eyes and come into this moment.  Be present, right here, right now and remind yourself, now is the only time there is.


The second step is to take routine breaks. I call them spiritual breaks for their capacity to bring you back to life.  Believe it or not, breaks are an important element in peak performance. Researchers found that activity in the hippocampus and neocortex – both of which help generate human intelligence — increases during periods of wakeful rest, especially after learning something new. “Wakeful rest” is neurobiology’s term for taking a break.

Your brain is continuing to work for you when you’re taking a break and in a much stronger way. Breaks are very important for cognitive function.  Breaks help you digest new information. It improves memory and supports what is called “memory consolidation.” Memory consolidation is like the dots connecting themselves. These benefits are often lost on people who don’t take breaks, which is most of us.  Most of us are victims of the push and rush of business demands that keep our nose to grindstone from dawn to dusk and beyond.

A break every 90 minutes is recommended to avoid what is called Ultradian stress syndrome. When this syndrome kicks in, we get tired, lose our mental focus, tend to make mistakes, become irritable and are more accident prone.

So, every 90 minutes take a break from work. Step outside or go to a window and see what the world is doing.

  • Let go of work completely.
  • Look at the sky, notice the quality of light that’s present. Watch the clouds pass, the wind blow, or the rain fall.
  • Look at the people walking by, the children playing, or whatever is happening at the moment.
  • Let yourself connect with life for a few moments.


The third step is to count your blessings. It might sound like a cliché to you, but the research shows that counting your blessings is a great stress buster. Here’s all you have to do.

Once a week, probably at bedtime, recall three things that happened during the previous week for which you are grateful.

Then acknowledge three things in your life, generally, for which you feel blessed.

The research shows that counting your blessing just once a week works better than doing it every day.


The rewards of standing still in these three ways are enormous. It can raise your creative power and performance.  It can improve your health, brightening your mood and increasing your energy. You’re likely to find yourself saying, Life is good. 

As Lee Ufan stated: If you do this, you will change and the world will come to life.

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