02/19/2011 12:02 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Power of Sitting Still

Walk down any street and you'll notice that most people have their heads down, fingers punching away, their bodies telegraphing, "Busy, connected, always in demand!"

No doubt you've also noticed there's a counter-cultural movement taking shape -- all kinds of voices are calling for us to step away from the technology once in a while (McKinsey, for instance, included a thought piece in a recent newsletter about how essential it is to disconnect -- and, for the record, HuffPost was banging this drum last spring when we devoted an entire month to how to "unplug and recharge").

Still, we need to learn -- and re-learn -- how to stop. How to just sit still once in a while.

Or, at least, I do. I'm too busy for words. And my body has been telling me that I'm doing too much, pushing too hard. For two years, I've been struggling with a condition that started as "frozen shoulder" and progressed to my neck. In the interim, I've seen every kind of medical and alternative health professional out there -- I've been needled and prodded, stretched and suspended. Nothing worked, and I was in despair.

And then I discovered osteopathy -- specifically one school of osteopathy, the gentle kind, which views ailments like mine as simple blockages of energy and suggests that breath work is the best way to loosen things up. My osteopath taught me some breathing exercises, which I now do twice a day. And this practice has made all the difference, including allowing me to get through the writing of my third book with relative ease.

Tim Parks, author of "Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing," had his very own health crisis -- chronic pelvic pain -- that sent him on a similar voyage through the health care system. And led him to his own important discovery: that simply sitting -- or meditating -- was what he needed to do to heal.

He describes the moment he first realized that meditation was going to help: "A great wave of relaxation came over me. For a minute, the pain was gone."

His book recounts -- in this novelist's entertaining and thoughtful way -- his entire journey, including the experts he consulted, the treatments he tried, his resistance to all things esoteric, and, finally, to his deepening understanding of the value of meditation in his life. He now sits for an hour each morning, before the pressures of the day encroach.

Do you struggle with being too busy? With stress or anxiety that manifests in your body? Have you tried meditation or breath work? Is there one thing that worked for you?


Julia Moulden is an author, speaker and columnist. Read her HuffPost archive, which includes more about the New Radicals and the first columns about her upcoming book, "Ripe."