Stillness seems like such a rare commodity. It almost feels like it’s reserved only for those who live in the country. When I lived in the country, stillness was unavoidable – I’d step out my door and there it was. Once in town, I forgot about it. But eventually I’d feel like there was this indefinable craving. I’d step outside in the dark morning with the freeway roaring a few blocks away and I’d want to crawl up into the dark sky and sit and glow quietly among the stars, taking the lid off my head and letting all the gunk flow out, spread out, thin out, and dissipate.
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. Lao Tzu
It occurred to me that because stillness isn’t spoon-fed to me any more, I’d have to find it inside me.
Many great religions remind us of how essential stillness is to our spirit. We get told plenty of times in our day-to-day life about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, but the wisdom of the ages tells us to shush up. Perhaps, with a healthy diet and exercise, stillness is part of a trinity of healthy living.
As a doer, healthy eating and exercise are challenges I’m up for. I can research and cook and hop on the treadmill. As I move and think and sweat and chop, I have actions that satisfy my belief that I am making progress. But stillness requires nothing from me except taking to time to not act. Why is something so simple, so difficult?
The sorrows of duty,
Like the heat of the sun,
Have scorched your heart.
But let stillness fall on you
With its sweet and cooling showers
And you will find happiness.
Ashtavakra Gita 18:3
Hollowing out a quiet space in a busy day can serve as a buffer, a place where nothing can touch me. And while I’m there, the activity around me swirls and settles, sometimes even into pretty patterns, waiting there for me to come back and examine it objectively with fresh eyes. Sometimes things even simply go away.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
We are encouraged to keep a Sabbath. We are instructed to rest between heavy workouts. We are told to walk away from creative pursuits such as writing and painting to revisit it later. We are sometimes encouraged to do short fasts. Vacation days are usually built into our employment. The coffee break is legendary. There are so many sources telling us to step away, get out of the routine, give ourselves a break.
To crawl up into the cool darkness of our minds and let the gunk out.
Hang out with the Divine and draw strength and lovingkindness.
In stillness, the world is restored. Buddhist proverb