Sitting with Restlessness

Restlessness. Do you recognize this feeling of not being able to relax or sit still? Frantically doing things, because you feel you have to? Doing more and more, even (or especially) when you feel tired?

It’s interesting to observe how often we keep ourselves busy, because we feel restless inside. And how we can make up all kinds of reasons for staying busy. Often these reasons seem obvious to ourselves, but how often are we aware of our beliefs behind this behavior?


My mind is very good at making up excuses about why I should be busy. Thoughts like these justify my behavior:

If I don’t do this now, nobody else will do it

This needs to be done; it is important

If I don’t do this, others will get ahead of me

This behavior has given me joy in the past, so it should give me joy right now

However, the actions I perform in this state of restlessness are usually not very joyful. They come from a feeling of ‘have to’ and ‘duty’ or from an unfulfillable desire to experience some pleasurable sensation. I suffer or bore myself through them.

Digging Deeper

When I start to dig a bit deeper and question myself “Why do I think I have to be busy now?”, some deeper believes come up:

When I am busy, I am worthy

I have to show the world, or my family or my boss that I am valuable

I am afraid of not being able to support myself or my family

I am afraid of boredom and disconnection from pleasure

I am afraid of difficult emotions coming up when I stop doing things

I am afraid of dying due to all of the above.

Fear of Death

A fear of death: doesn’t that sound a bit exaggerated?

At first, maybe it does. But when I follow back my underlying motivations, this is where I end up every time. I am afraid to die.

Now I can keep running away from my fear of death by keeping myself busy. Or I can explore this feeling a bit deeper. What is death? What does it mean, to die?

My first and very visceral reaction when thinking about death, is the pain and sadness it creates for family and friends. It touches my attachment to the unfulfilled goals I still have in my life, to the connections and bonds I want to foster, and to my desire to experience more of life.


However, when I sink a bit deeper into the meaning of death, a stillness arises. In my body I can feel how death is not some scary, final experience, but a temporarily letting go of all attachment to the lifeform I call ‘my self’. It is a letting go of obligations I have set for myself, a letting go of the masks I have put on to present myself to the outside world. It is a letting go of the identity I have created.

This letting go can feel scary when just thinking of it, as it annihilates everything that I have built up, everything that I have fought for. But when I decide to completely surrender into it, there is a stillness and a vast space that arises. An ultimate relaxation. A pure presence.

Practicing Pure Presence

This state of pure presence is something we can practice every moment of our life. And it is very beneficial in moments of restlessness.

How to Practice Being Present

When you catch yourself running around frantically due to a feeling of restlessness, pause yourself.

Sit down on a chair, in a quiet space, and relax your body as much as is possible in this moment.

Bring your attention inward by closing your eyes and observing your body and breath.

Make a strong decision to spend the next five, ten or fifteen minutes doing absolutely NOTHING (set a timer to make it easier for yourself to stick to this decision)

If you want verbal guidance, check out this video.

Doing Nothing: How do I do that?

It seems so simple, yet can feel so difficult!

Doing nothing asks for a shift from a state of doing and achieving, to a state of being. When we are in a state of being, we are connected to the direct experience of life in the here and now. When we are in a state of being, we are present in the moment. We let go of past impressions, and of ideas or fantasies about our future. It is like we experience everything for the first time, with the eyes and curiousness of a child. 

Verbalizing Intentions

Some things you can say to yourself (silently or out loud), to make the shift from doing and achieving to a state of being:

For the duration of this practice, I…

…let go of ALL expectations, opinions and judgments I have for myself and others

…let go of ALL obligations I have, not matter how important they seem

…decide to be completely present with WHATEVER arises in this moment, be it sensations, emotions or thoughts, and to truly welcome every experience that shows itself to me.

…do not have to try to solve, fix or make my feelings go away

…just observe. I am present.

…keep on breathing if I feel overwhelmed by sensations, feelings or thoughts

…know that everything is perfect the way it is right now. And that every experience, good or bad, will change and eventually pass.


Remember, you don’t have to let go of responsibilities, goals or obligations for the rest of your life, or even for the rest of the day. By setting a timer and creating a well-defined practice moment, it is easier to practice being present in the moment. Afterwards, you can continue doing whatever you were doing.

Little Windows into a State of Being

These little moments of practice are windows that give you a peek into what it is like to live in a state of being. They help you to more often make the switch from doing and achieving to being present in everyday situations. It becomes a valuable tool that you can use whenever you want.




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