Stillness resides inside all of us, often hidden within a context of activity and thought, feelings and Bodily reactions. Stillness is an Energy of Peace, Equanimity and presence. It wears a soft, contented smile. It is calm. It is silent.
Stillness exists outside of us too— again, within a context of constant activity. It is something we can always step in to. We step into the Stillness outside of us when we step out of our busy-ness, constant striving and reaction.
Stillness is the calm of one storm communing with the calm of another storm. It is a synchronicity of Peace and Equanimity.
In Stillness, we become aware of our life force. We feel each Breath. We are aware of the container that is our Body. We are aware of each point of contact between this container and the outer world.
In Stillness, we rest, recuperate and recalibrate our Bodies as instruments of conducting Divine electricity.
In Stillness, noise irrelevant to our soul’s purpose fades away. We hear and feel that which resides within us. Our Truth rises up. Our Divinity rises up. Wisdom rises up. It was always there, lost in the din of reaction.
In Stillness, we move with purpose and awareness. We decelerate mental activity and reaction. We are accepting of that which is occurring around us. We don’t grant the power of distraction to these occurrences.
In Stillness, we savor. We savor the moment of just being. We savor each Breath. We savor the feeling of being alive in our bodies.
Stillness allows subtle ripples to be seen which were lost in the splashing commotion of busy-ness. Stillness lets us see the surface of the pond; this surface represents our being which is able to discern the ripples formed by various sources from the subtle or abrupt intonations of Intuition or the wakes formed by wounds. Indeed, Stillness lets old pain be felt and old grievances to be heard so that they might leave us for good.
In Stillness, we can engage in the lost art of “just sitting.” We sit with who we are. We sit with old pains. We sit with our Divinity. We sit and foster Equanimity. We sit and let it be okay to just sit─ and be. We sit and allow that Stillness within us mesh with the Stillness around us. In Stillness, we sit to slow down so that life doesn’t pass us by.
‘The quieter you become, the more you hear.” -Ram Dass
Fear of the Empty
Sitting still can be very uncomfortable for many of us. In this day and age we are taught to hustle and multi-task. We are plugged into multiple forms of electronic media. We are always on call. We conflate this feeling of productivity, achievement and being constantly in “reaction mode” with true meaning and purpose.
Sometimes when we unplug and sit still, suddenly everything feels like it is falling apart. The busy-ness and hurry is akin to holding a house of cards together; the constant motion is like the centrifugal force that holds water in a bucket when swung in a circle.
If we slow down or if we stop, what would happen to all of that water?
Constant busy-ness gives us constant feedback about who we are based upon that busy-ness and the reactions it creates. We are making noise and feel compelled to hear the echo of our own voice in order to reaffirm that we exist and give ourselves identity. If there is no echo, the silence feels uncomfortably empty. We feel empty, separate and alone.
We might not know who we are in the Stillness, because we hardly ever allow it to take over; or we may not like who we are as we sit and notice what lies within us.
The fear of all this may hold some back from Stillness, but Stillness is the exact place where we can find out who we really are. Stillness is where old feelings can be felt and released and healing and growth can occur. Stillness is where we can find the shadow parts of ourselves, that we may not like. Now we have an opportunity to know these parts of ourselves so that we can integrate as appropriate and accept them.
“Your inner most sense of who you are is inseparable from stillness. This is the ‘I am.’”
Addicted to Busy-ness
We have all witnessed the over-achiever types. We might even be one of them. They get so much done. They are super-productive, and they can amaze us with their accomplishments.
Yet some (not all) just cannot seem to slow down. Even when they take time off, they have a busy vacation. They take work calls at all hours of the night and while they are on vacation. They check their email every five minutes— or more. Perhaps they don’t even sit for most meals, and instead grab items on the go. They just can’t seem to slow down and enjoy the present moment. They will tell you that they are just “wired that way.”
Overachievement could serve a purpose of proving value for a person. Why do some people need to prove their value? Sometimes it stems from an unconscious belief within that says just the opposite─ the feeling that they, in fact, are not valuable. Usually this belief comes from a childhood wound that has been left unhealed. Overachievement serves the purpose of constantly soothing the pain of this wound. Each act of overachievement gives a moment of temporary relief where that person can say, “Look what I did! I matter!”
The wound, buried deep down inside the psyche, says, “No, you really don’t matter.” There is an anxious tension between the two. The busy-ness of overachievement not only serves to alleviate this anxiety by sending a temporary and opposing message of value; it is also attempting to match and mask the anxious energy of the wound itself. The anxious energy of busy-ness is preferable to the anxiety of inadequacy.
Addictions are said to be self-medication for the underlying wound; they temporarily soothe and mask a person’s pain. Addiction to busy-ness serves the same purpose while at the same time it soothes the ego. In modern culture, a person receives accolades for their “accomplishments.”
In Stillness our wounds can be heard, although we might not like what they have to say. We feel that we may crumble if we hear something that questions our inherent value. We will unconsciously do whatever we can to avoid hearing those old, false messages.
We just won’t sit Still for it.
“When people want to see their reflections they do not look into running water, they look into still water.” -Chuang Tzu
Human Doing vs. Human Being
There is a saying out there in the self-help world regarding the comparison between being a “human doing” and “human being.” It may be cliché, but it is also effective. The saying regards keeping an eye on whatever dynamic forces come together to put us in the mode of “Go, Go, Go” to the point of distraction from self or to the point of losing the ability to sit Still. The cliché’ provides a nice reminder to balance our lives at the very least.
Be a human being. Take time to purposely “not do.”
Striving can be thought of in practical and positive terms as putting energy and commitment towards achieving change and/or a meeting a specific goal. There is a certain energy to constant striving which is bottomless and never-ending, however. This kind of striving is based in inadequacy. In contrast to Stillness, striving drives an individual’s activities from a place of constant need. The strivers need to be something more than they already are. Strivers are “never good enough.” They never have enough to appease the underlying void of their own inherent value.
There are societal expectations which feed the energy of constant striving. These factors come from a place of always having to meet the expectations of others, with new levels constantly laid down when a benchmark is met. It is “keeping up with the Joneses.” No matter how hard one tries, one will simply never be good enough. Thus, strivers are caught in a hamster wheel that will play this dynamic out forever.
Constant striving in this way leaves one in agitation. There is also a strong undertone of anxiety derived from a sense that we are just “not surviving” through our efforts. It is a particular kind of resistance to being that conflicts with Stillness.
What about when we constantly strive for spiritual growth and enlightenment? Those who do this may be attaching themselves to a specific outcome or idea of what these concepts are and how they themselves will be when they achieve them. They may not be in Acceptance of the present moment, i.e. their current way of being. The Energy that can be healthier for the spiritual striver is to practice Surrender or allowance. It’s a Yin vs. Yang thing. With the Yin approach (see element of Trinity), one endeavors to set up an internal and external environment conducive to growth without attaching to a specific outcome.
As a rule of thumb, it doesn’t really work to write a specific “awakening/enlightenment” date on a calendar or tie it to attendance to a certain weekend seminar.
Be wary of striving to hard for spiritual growth. Instead, Surrender and bend into it.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” -Jesus
Stillness Fosters Equanimity
The main function of Stillness may be to foster Equanimity. Equanimity is a state of having Peace within. It is through Stillness that we first survey the battlefield to see how far away from Equanimity we might be. In Stillness, we get to see the lay of the land.
An inability to sit Still might be an indication of much Healing work to do. We can develop the skill slowly. The process of improvement can be very revealing as we learn what might be in the way of our Stillness.
With Stillness, we first endeavor to quiet the mind. In the beginning, our minds race with thoughts and we tend to resist. Anxiety speeds up. Through careful, slow and conscious Breathing, however, we can temper the chaos and start to be Still.
In this first step, we also notice what thoughts we are having as they come up. We are very aware. We might notice what the triggers are that increase and speed up our thoughts. We might start to notice patterns of thought that point to some underlying beliefs that keep us in agitation. We might begin to discover what our wounds may be. We might notice reservoirs of anger, sadness or shame that threaten to spillover (it seems like) if we sat ourselves Still for very long. By staying busy, we simply distracted ourselves away from the great reservoirs of information Stillness gives us access to.
If we are having trouble calming the mind, we might have to take a step back and focus on calming the Body first. Our mind may have passed a certain threshold of constant anxiety that will not allowing Stillness in our Body as well. We are in a mode of High RPM and may live with constant physical tension when we are in this state.
The Body has to be relaxed in order to be Still. I have noticed that people with wound-up energy and anxiety often have difficulty relaxing their Bodies. They may need to watch their caffeine intake. They may need to do more breathing and relaxation techniques, muscle contraction and relaxation techniques, or relaxing physical activities like yoga before sitting down to be Still in meditation or in Nature.
They have to find the right formula for the Body to tell the mind that it is safe to relax. This is the Vagus Nerve in action, the switch that turns our fight-or-flight system to “off.”
“Stillness is the real entertainment. Real, profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast within this activity.” -Leonard Cohen
The Irony of Stillness
It is in Stillness that we are moved. Stillness is not stagnancy. It is dynamic in its impact. It is in Stillness that we discover hidden reservoirs of emotions that need to be moved out. Stillness is not empty, rather it is full of answers. It is in Stillness that our Divinity rises up and we feast upon all that comes with that. It is in Stillness that we stir up abundance. It is in Stillness that we achieve this great merging of what lies within us with the greater Divinity outside of us. Stillness allows for this movement— like a ship docking and anchoring to its home port. The seas are calm.
“Stillness is the altar of the spirit.” -Paramahansa Yogananda
The Body supports Stillness because we can literally sit our Bodies down to be Still. It also serves as an indicator of anxiety levels, internalized trauma and unprocessed emotions which may not allow us to sit Still in the first place. Actions of the Body, such as yoga, can help to calm us and slow us down.
Self-Awareness and Healing will provide insight into what resides within that may need movement so that we may sit Still.
Mindfulness serves us in catching ourselves if we get into the mode of constant striving and Human Doing.
Breath stills our Bodies and minds. It may be the number one Stillness tool for many.
Non-Attachment allows us to let go of constant doing and any identity we derive from non-stop activity.
Acceptance lets things happen around us without reaction.
Now provides a venue for Stillness. Stillness exists in the Now. We are not Still when we move out of the Now.
Nature teaches us Stillness. Be a rock in the desert. Be a tree in the woods. Be a calm pond. GO and be in Nature to support Stillness.
Solitude gets us away from the rush of crowds, reactions, doing and pleasing. Stillness is primarily developed in Solitude at first. In general, we learn to be Still alone before we are able to maintain Stillness around others.
Beauty provides a focus points that can help us to be still and keep our minds calm. Again, go into Nature and experience Beauty there in Stillness.
- Monitor your intake of “uppers” or things that make you feel speedy, like caffeine and tobacco. Reduce as much as possible, if not eschew entirely, these items from your life.
- Meditate, Meditate, Meditate. Start with a practice of just five to ten minutes per day, but be consistent about it. Explore a form of meditation that involves staring at a fixed object or staring off into the distance.
- Think deceleration. Walk slower. Eat slower. Drive slower. Stop rushing. Be late and call or just leave earlier to stop the habit of constant rushing.
- Cultivate your ability to sit Still during the day for a few minutes, specifically taking time to engage in deliberate and conscious breathing practices (See Breath Element).
- Find different places to sit and just be, i.e., near your workplace when you are on a break, near your home or at a park.
- Breathe past discomfort in Stillness. Learn to “sit with it.”
- In sitting with any uncomfortable feelings, identify those areas for Healing work.
- Practice Yin yoga, restorative yoga or Tai Chi.
- Unplug from technology and social media on a regular basis.
- Cut down on the amount of time you spend multitasking. Avoid having several sources of media playing at once. Focus on one task at a time, whether at work or volunteering. This will not only help you personally feel better but will also ultimately yield better results. You may find that you take greater joy in your work in this way as well— rather than all of your tasks being stressful because there are so many, taking them one at a time allows you to notice the little things that made you decide that you wanted to adopt this task in the first place!
I Release Constant Busy-ness; I Am Still.
Be Here Now, Quiet, Still; I Am Here Now, Quiet, Still.
In the Eye of the Storm, I Am Calm. In the Eye of the Storm, I Hear Wisdom.
I Honor Stillness; I Honor the Divine.