I must be getting older now… why else would I be writing about such an unimaginative subject? I’ll try my best to make it interesting because the irony here is: stillness IS the doorway to the deepest levels of our imagination.
So why is maintaining a stillness so difficult for most people? The first thought that comes to my mind is the busy nature of our society. We have a world population exceeding 7 billion. In the western civilizations we have a social structure that is largely rooted in consumerism, and this is based on subtle programming that is drip feeding the masses 24/7. It’s a drip feed of clever corporate advertising skillfully directed by our main-stream-media. Work, work, work. Consume, consume, consume. We live in a very busy world. Or so we’re told.
Who has the time, let alone the desire for stillness? As I studiously raise my hand. I do!
Now I didn’t always feel this way, I was a restless young man. Around age 28 I realized my business was stressing me out… I needed a solution. So I learned meditation. I learned how to create a little space between my thoughts and as it turned out, this was the magic formula that helped me cope with stress. I learned this practice with a friendly, wise, Zen monk in the neighborhood. I practiced zazen at his small temple every other day for years. This is when I discovered how busy the mind is, this constant stream of internal dialog, it’s endless really. This is not our natural state. It’s a programmed state.
There are countless studies on the benefits of meditation. In meditation we engage the natural stillness within, despite the busyness of mind and thought. The inner stillness is present. In practicing stillness, we help bring a bit of sanity back into the world.
One simple technique I learned from ‘power of now’ (E. Tolle) is to sit and relax in nature. In a forest, by a stream, or a lake. Anywhere in nature that is free of disturbance. When relaxed and sitting quietly, count to 15 seconds. Focus on this act of counting. Concentrate as you count. If thoughts arise… interfering with your counting, then accept it, and start counting again. In this initial 15 seconds you have a gauge to practice by. Once you have reached your 15 second mark without interfering thoughts then start over and sit quietly for 15 seconds without counting. Use your intuition and gauge the timing.
In this effort, we are creating space between thoughts.
Now try to expand your silence to the 30 second mark, using same technique. Be patient. Accept the thought ‘train’ if it’s interfering. Embrace the thought train. See the endless line of freight cars – thoughts – coming in and passing through. This is the busy mind, or monkey mind. See the monkey swinging from branch to branch as he grabs the fruit and takes a bite, discarding the rest of the fruit. Ever wasteful and distracted, the monkey finds little use in concentration. He likes this state. The human animal likes this state.
As we make it to the 60 second mark of silence, taming the busy mind, we find a genuine space between thoughts. Here is true stillness. The trick now is to hold the space for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and so on. It takes time. It requires a dedication. There are keys hidden within the stillness. They grant access to the inner realms of pure-information beyond the mind. You may notice time slows down and stretches wide. There is an eternal moment here somewhere.
There is a term called – holding space – it is often used in sacred ceremonies to acknowledge someone who has the ability to hold the space, like an elder, or experienced journeyman. Someone who is calm, silent and capable of holding that space between thoughts. When journeying with a group, whether in meditation or sweat lodge or aya ceremony, it’s nice to have an elder there to hold the space. We all have the ability. It just needs to be flexed, exercised. There is a true power in this silence that rests between thoughts.
“Silence, inner and outer, is the gateway to true knowledge.” Theun Mares – ‘Return of the Warriors’
Within silence, there is stillness. Within stillness solutions present themselves. It’s time to embrace stillness and step into a new reality. It’s a sideways step… into the valley of the spirit. Into a brave new world.