still the body
still the mind
still the voice inside
feel the stillness move
cannot be imagined
Kabir (15th century Sufi poet)
The practice of stillness is central to meditation. I will return to it again and again. Just as silence is not simply the absence of sound, so stillness is not the mere absence of movement.
On one level, we are encountering a new type of stillness: the conservation of energy in isolation; an enforced curtailing of public activity. Streetscapes transformed, as architecture is allowed to speak without the interruption of human bodies.
And, for many of us, there is a new economy in the way that we interact with others, almost as if we are re-learning how to communicate without unnecessary flourishes or drama.
Here is a thought: in isolation, we emerge as either ‘DOING PEOPLE’ or ‘BEING PEOPLE’. In other words, we are discovering that, at the deepest level of our identity, we are either happiest when we are active, or we find contentment in stillness. There is no judgment intended in this, because these fundamental characteristics have developed in every human being since birth, and they are the result of both nature and nurture.
What is crucial, however, in the midst of lockdown and isolation, is to acknowledge which type of person who are. For, if you are a DOING PERSON, then you will need to have great compassion for yourself, as you may also have to cultivate the little-used muscles of your imagination that will help you cope with inactivity.
As for the BEING PERSON, those of us who are quite at home with stillness, the task is to grow and nurture this and put it to work for others. Our meditation journey is the pathway.
Notice that the title of today’s blog post is Stillness, not THE Stillness. That is because every stillness is different, distinctive as to its context, as to how it is experienced, and as to how its effects take root and last.
Meditation for the day
Settle into your chosen space.
Relax into your body and attend to your breath.
Hold and repeat
Imagine the stillness of the stones on the cold shore of a Scottish loch.
The waves of the loch retreat, as your breath does.
Then, when the waves return to cover the stones, they make infinitesimal changes to their shape, and to their relationship with other stones on the shore
So it is with your breath, that each inhalation and each exhalation mark the passing of your life., making imperceptible changes in your body and in the way that you relate to yourself, and so to others.
Hold and repeat
The permanence of the stones
The impermanence of human life
The flow of water that changes constantly
No-one can step into the same loch twice
No-one can return to the same breath twice
BE STILL AND LET THE CHANGES FLOW OVER YOU
Heraclitus (500 BCE) is reputed to have said that “no man can step into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and it’s not the same man.” I am sure that, from his eternal stillness , Heraclitus will forgive my paraphrasing him, even if he never saw a Scottish loch.