Making Stillness Matter


In our busy, modern lives, it can be rare to find ourselves in stillness apart from a glowing blue screen, moving vehicle, or agonizingly slow line-up. Yet, the deeper benefits of stillness–the ones that calm and replenish our bodies, minds, and hearts–require us to set these distractions aside, if only for a little while.

Intentional stillness–yes, we mean being still on purpose, for a purpose–is a practice that Lil'wat scholar Lorna Williams knows well. A Professor Emerita of Indigenous education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of Victoria, Williams teaches stillness through the Lil'wat principle Kat'il'a.

Kat'il'a means: 

"finding stillness and quietness amidst our busyness and quest for knowledge. Within the increasing demands and speed in our lives, we need to seek out spaces that allow for changed pace, contemplating deeply our experiences and the wisdom of others" - Sanford, Williams, Hopper & McGregor, "Indigenous Principles Decolonizing Teacher Education: What We Have Learned"

According to Williams, practicing Kat'il'a allows both teachers and learners to "breathe deeply, to connect to the world around [us], and to regain a sense of balance." This definition reflects how recent scientific research defines the concept of rest: a pathway to calm, inner tranquillity and mental health; a base of support; and stillness. This research also reports that the positive effects of rest include: health, mental clarity and healing. 

So, how do we make time for stillness, rest, Kat'il'a, when it may already feel like we don't have enough hours in the day to teach, to learn, and to care for ourselves and others? 

Fortunately, structured moments of rest can yield profound benefits.

3 Ways to Make Stillness Matter: 

  1. Make stillness a routine part of your and your children's day by carving out a regular time to rest. A good way to do this is to link it to another part of your daily routine that happens regularly and naturally, such as before or after a meal, after returning home from work or school, or before bed. 
  2. Practice mindfulness[1]. Guide yourself and your child to focus on a particular sensation through sight, sound, or touch. Take turns naming all the sounds you can hear with your eyes closed. Blow bubbles and follow each one with your eyes until it pops. Gently toss a stone in a puddle, pond, or lake and watch the ripples fan out in your peripheral vision while keeping your eyes softly focused on the center. Lay back on the grass and actually watch the clouds float by with your child–some slow, some fast, and each at its own perfect pace. Place a piece of chocolate on your tongue and notice how the sensation in your mouth changes as it melts and transforms in flavour and texture. 
  3. Find stillness in movement. Get outside for a walk in nature. Lace up your runners and get moving - but leave the tunes at home. Ride your bike with your child to school. Take a yoga class, go for a swim, or get in the zone at the gym. The possibilities are endless, but the purpose should be clear: when we are moving for stillness, it is less an item on our to-do lists, and more of a way to step out of our busy lives and minds to be present with ourselves in the moment. 

Excited about the amazing benefits of mindfulness but having trouble getting started? Check out this article on how to overcome common stumbling blocks by the Greater Good Science Center at the Unviersity of California, Berkeley. 

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.