The Practice of Stillness

Kathline Colvin, Ph.D.Leave a Comment

Practice of Stillness

Practice of Stillness

“Sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it…Going nowhere as a way of cutting through the noise and finding fresh time and energy to share with others…” – Pico Iyer

Find Moments of Stillness in Your Day

As Mindfulness practices, including meditation, catch hold and move into prominence in our present culture we understand why. With our electronic devices seemingly becoming part of our nervous systems and the loss of our private time, we are like emergency room doctors, permanently on-call, needing to heal ourselves but at times unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk. Sociologists recently concluded, after a 30 year study of time diaries, that Americans are working fewer hours than we did in the 1960’s, but we feel that we’re working more. And we too often have the sense of running at top speed and never being able to catch up. Instead of hurrying around in search of contentment we need to pause and find moments of stillness in our day to be settled and content.

Stepping Away into Stillness

Philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome along with the poets of East Asia regularly placed stillness – in their practice of meditation – at the center of their lives. Song writer and poet Leonard Cohen talked about his meditation practice and the art of sitting still – clearing the head and stilling the emotions … one observes a sense of heightened attention, kindness, and even delight that seemed to arise out of going nowhere. As Cohen describes it, “Going nowhere isn’t turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then – into stillness – so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply”.

The Prize – Coming Closer to Ourselves

We can start by just taking a few minutes out of every day to sit quietly and do nothing – just breathe – letting what moves you rise to the surface – reflecting on what lies deeper than the moment or the self. At these moments we are at times reminded, at a deeper level than words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions. The result of “stillness” is the prize of coming closer to our senses – to what really matters to us. Stillness offers a practical way of working through the anxiety and confusion that accompany us in our attempt to adapt to life’s challenges.

Happiness Comes with Stillness

So much of our lives takes place in our heads – in memory and imagination – that we know now that we can change our life circumstances by changing the way we look at them. As the wise psychologist William James reminded us “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” It’s the perspective we choose, not the places we visit, that ultimately tells us where we stand. As we move through life our experiences acquire meaning, yet this meaning only grows deeper on reflection – sitting in stillness and converting the sights we’ve seen into lasting insights. Happiness shows up when you sit in stillness and are content to be exactly where you are.

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