In the early 80’s, I rode the school bus to and from Providence Elementary. All the kids called our bus driver Sit Down and Shut Up because all we ever heard him say was, “Sitdownandshutup,” bellowed in one raspy breath as if the statement were a single word.
That rude declaration might get a bus driver fired these days. The phrase is considered offensive. But it’s also really solid life advice. In fact, it’s my life’s guiding principle.
When I make choices that support sitting down and shutting up, I am calmer and more joyful. I see more, hear more and understand more. When I make choices that distance me from that principle, I am overwhelmed, anxious and out of balance. Why I do comes before what I do.
It would benefit us all to sit down and shut up. The modern world values speed and productivity. I have students constantly tell me that they don’t have time for a two-minute mindfulness practice. They literally can’t sit down and shut up for two minutes!
But rushing doesn’t help you accomplish more. It doesn’t help you work better; it just makes you work harder. It leads to processing errors because it leaves too many tabs open on your brain computer.
Your brain remembers every single moment of your life. Every time you’re running around like a headless chicken, your body leaves a little cellular marker called a PCC in your brain. Even if you aren’t feeling overtly scared or anxious, your body equates rushing with stress. These cellular markers are memory tags, so your future brain will be better prepared to deal with those stressors when they are next encountered.
For example, let’s say you’re late for an appointment. You’re speeding, honking at other cars, perhaps muttering curses at the stoplights. Your brain then “marks” being in traffic as a stress memory. So every time you slide in the driver’s seat, this little cellular memory tag tells your brain that there is not enough time and you better get a move on.
Think of each PCC, or precognitive commitment, as those open tabs on your brain computer. By the age of 40, people have over 20 million open tabs! But instead of dealing with all of that accumulated stress, we simply minimize those tabs and keep rushing about. We think we’re too busy to sit down and shut up. But we forget that the tabs are still open and running in the background, causing processing errors and machine crashes.
Sitting down and shutting up is like emptying the cache and cookies on your brain computer. Instead of minimizing those PCC programs, it closes them, helping all the software to run more efficiently. To be clear, the PCCs still exist, but now you have to check your browser history or actively search for them. Getting in your car won’t automatically raise your blood pressure.
The modern world fears stillness and silence, so we bury our emptiness in noise and busyness, distract ourselves with overstimulation. Thanks to technology, we have the ability to stave off the loneliness, boredom and existential ennui that plague us more than any time in history. We hesitate to face those truths, mistakenly believing that if we stop for a second, we’ll never be able to restart. So we open tab after tab, minimizing them as they crowd the screen, then wonder why we can’t find peace or even a single coherent thought.
When you stop rushing and slow down, life is more joyful and interesting. You make fewer mistakes because you’re calmer and clearer. You worry less and can focus more on the things that truly matter.
So, and I say this with love, sit down and shut up.