Stillness…Have You Found It?
By: Shadoe McKee“Be Still. Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.” ~Lao Tzu
When we meditate we are taught to reach for or settle into the quiet in the center of our being, a place of stillness and calm where we can attain a feeling of oneness and unity with all things. We can observe and become a part of unconditional love.
Stillness is defined as an absence of motion, which sounds to me like the complete opposite of what we experience in our everyday lives. Stillness is not achieved by force. You cannot command your mind to produce it. Just like a child who refuses to be quiet during a movie you really would love to focus your attention on, you cannot shush your mind or ignore it or scold it. The child is happiest when you divert its attention to something it finds interesting. Give them a project or puzzle; give them something to focus on, and they will settle into it and a calm silence will blossom up from it. Then you are free to watch your movie.
When you begin to sit in meditation, you begin a long process of learning to listen to the cycle of your mind and thoughts and feelings. There is a pattern in the chaos that you can seek out and process. Slowly, what you thought was chaos, and felt like confusion, pain, and divergent thinking, becomes a cycle you can predict, like a wave coming up onto a beach. You learn to settle into that pattern, to train the incoming information and the generated thoughts. You begin to see glimmers of stillness between your thoughts. Your mind stops throwing tantrums and starts following the rules you’ve set for it. You learn to properly occupy the child mind and step away from it into the stillness. As your practice strengthens, your mind begins to expect the cycle of shutting down, even anxiously anticipating it, as if you’re a friend to your own mind, giving it a much-needed break from the daily grind it is forced to perform in.
What is in the stillness we seek when we meditate? Are we going somewhere or arriving at a place of nothingness inside of ourselves? We are obviously rewarded in some way when we seek it out, otherwise why would we be looking for it in the first place? Stillness gives us freedom from fear and attachment. We become free of the selfishness of the world, the acquisition, the competition, our likes and dislikes. If we increase the stillness of the body and tune into the vastness of the universe, the mind will still and our heart fills with a quiet joy and the oneness we long for.
Keep in mind, without the stress and hustle-bustle and troubles of life, there would be no contrasting stillness. Without the power and brightness of the hot, blazing sun there could be no cool, gentle night. Without the sorrows of the death of one soul there would be no joy and euphoria of the birth of another. They are not competing forces, they are not trying to outdo each other, one isn’t good and one evil; they are two sides of the same coin. Your journey is to find the discipline within you to walk the middle path and gain knowledge and love from both sides of that coin. You are both and you are SUPPOSED to be both. You feel joy and pain, you think angry thoughts and thoughts of great compassion, you feel guilt and shame and you decide to do what is right but sometimes do what is wrong anyway; you are both movement and stillness. If you weren’t you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t have anything more to learn.
“Your duty is ‘to be’ and not be ‘this’ or ‘that’. ‘I am that I am’ sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in the words ‘be still’. What does stillness mean? It means destroy yourself, because any form or shape is the cause for trouble. Give up that notion that ‘I am so and so’. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than that?” ~Ramana Maharshi
So keep growing your meditation practice and keep going to that beautiful place of stillness. Choose to carry what you learn from it into your waking life. Spread the gifts of knowledge and love you develop in you like seeds that grow in others. All that we perceive as stillness isn’t definable with human language; it’s much too personal for that. But you can develop your own definition of what the stillness is and what it does for you and how it can have a ripple effect in your daily life and the lives of those you touch.