The Importance of Stillness

Taking the time to be still, both in mind and body, is essential to our well-being. It is only when we learn the importance of stillness and obtain the skills to practice it regularly that we can truly connect with the deepest part of ourselves. In today’s culture, we are so inundated with information that we have become accustomed to an immersion in stimuli. We take comfort in chaos. We interpret busyness as a sign of productivity. Our ability to keep up with “BREAKING NEWS” demonstrates our knowledgeability. “It’s too quiet”, is a phrase oft-repeated. There seems to be a general fear or mistrust of stillness and silence. What are we afraid of? As more and more of us are raised in environments where some sort of background noise—television, stereo, computer, mobile phones—is constant and ubiquitous, perhaps a lack of noise signals to our brains that something is off. While a state of stillness may have been easily obtained in more primitive cultures, and was, in fact, a normal part of life without electricity or other similar distractions, the constant cacophony of our modern society has necessitated that this lost art be re-learned.

What is Stillness?

When referring to objects, the word stillness means the absence of movement or sound, but when we speak of the state of human stillness, it describes something much deeper. Stillness is a state of being in which we stop all activity—both physical and mental—and merely exist. The power that comes from engaging in this simple practice has proved to be remarkable and life-changing. When we allow ourselves that time in which we are simply present, not planning our day, not remembering the past, not thinking about anything other than the idea that we exist in that moment, we access the part of ourselves which is much more profound than the surface level we normally encounter. Devotees of the practice of stillness describe acquiring a sense of inner peace and fulfillment—something most of us find very hard to come by as we spend our days on a hamster wheel of work-eat-sleep-repeat. Many of us find ourselves asking, “Is that all there is?”

Constant Connectedness—the Enemy of Stillness

In an age of fantastic technological advancements, it is increasingly difficult to break away from our commitments to work, family and friends since we are connected to all of them 24 hours a day. The benefits of this are many: we don’t have to flag down a passing car when we run out of gas and need to call a tow truck, and we can send emails from our living room couch if we need to. There are also myriad drawbacks to this constant-connectedness. More and more people find themselves required to make themselves available to their employers (at least via their phones) at all times. “Quitting time” doesn’t exist anymore for a sizable number of the employed, and bosses expect emails and texts returned long after you’ve gone home for the day. This interminable state of being “plugged in” or connected deprives us of the chance to focus on what is truly important. Instead of taking some time to connect with ourselves and replenish our spirits, we are filling our days and nights with woulds, coulds, and shoulds.

In his recent TED talk, Pico Iyer describes the urgent necessity for stillness thusly: “In an age of speed, I began to think, ‘nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still’.” Iyer advocates for the daily practice of stillness in order to combat the constant barrage of information humans are now subjected to (much of it voluntarily) each day. There are many other promoters of the importance of achieving a state of stillness each day. In his book, “Stillness Speaks”, author and spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, describes stillness as our “essential nature”, and advises that in order to achieve stillness, we must listen to the silence around us and refrain entirely from thinking. It is only in achieving this state of “awareness without thinking” that we will be able to find stillness within ourselves.

Stillness—An Age-Old Concept

While the concept of stillness seems to have become more prevalent in the press recently, the practice of stillness is certainly not a novel idea. In fact, there have been champions of the practice of stillness for millennia. Around 600 B.C., Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, was one of its greatest advocates, describing silence as “the greatest revelation”. He believed that it is only in achieving and understanding the state of stillness that one can “become one with heaven and earth”. There is also mention of stillness in Christianity. In the Old Testament, Exodus 14:14 states, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” In the New Testament, Psalm 46:10 reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” Some believe that it is only in the stillness that we can truly find God; others assert that the stillness actually is God and the feelings of peace and serenity we attain when we are in a true state of stillness is a result of connecting with God Himself.

Monkey Mind vs. Stillness

Achieving stillness is quite a difficult and at first, an unnatural task for many of us. The more regularly we are engaged in the daily grind of maintaining our obligations to our jobs, homes, families, and friends, the more challenging it can be for the state of stillness to be attained—at least at first. With practice, you will find it easier to achieve stillness and relieve yourself of what some call “monkey mind”. This term refers to an idea put forth by The Buddha which described the human mind as one that is full of capricious and drunken monkeys, swinging from vines and chattering away. This monkey mind state is, in fact, the opposite of the stillness we wish to achieve and learning to control it is key to achieving stillness. Only when we learn to put our monkeys in their proper place will we be able to make a state of stillness obtainable.

Achieving the State of Stillness

Lao Tzu is quoted as saying that in order to achieve a state of stillness, one must “attain complete emptiness”. By clearing our minds completely of all thoughts of plans, obligations, regrets, etc., we create the space needed for peace and placidity to enter in their stead. To achieve this, it is ideal to find a quiet and comfortable space to sit or lie down. (If you fear you may fall asleep in your efforts toward stillness, it is better to maintain a seated position.) While some prefer an atmosphere of complete silence during this time, there are those who prefer a soundtrack of ocean waves or soft instrumental music which will not spur thoughts into arising. Once an appropriate location has been procured and you have settled into a comfortable position, just be still. The state of physical stillness will inspire your mind to become quiet, which is the next step in achieving a state of stillness. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts and simply be. In the beginning, you may find that thoughts find a way of creeping into your mind. Remind yourself that it takes a while to train monkeys, and, without judgment of yourself or thoughts of failure, simply push the thoughts out of your head, as many times as it takes. Allow your brain to connect only with the silence or the soundtrack you have chosen for your exercise in stillness. Once you feel a sensation of peace, of serenity, and of fulfillment, you will know you have achieved the state of stillness.

Stillness On-the-Go

Nobel-Prize-winning author, Hermann Hesse, is quoted as saying, “Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time.” Once you have mastered the art of attaining stillness, you can access it at any time, whether you are in a noisy, crowded restaurant or a monastery. You will be able to go through the events of your day, attend meetings and run errands, and still tap into that feeling of stillness whenever you feel the need to access it again. When you allow yourself the time to re-focus your energies, even if only for a minute or two, you will find yourself more prepared to take on challenges with a renewed spirit. It will become harder to feel overwhelmed with the jumble of tasks you are faced with each day because you will have reconnected with your inner sense of peace and know you can reconnect with it easily. The more often you take the time to attain a state of stillness, the easier you will find it to see it reflected back to you in the world.

 © 2017 5th Dimensional Quantum Healing & Awareness by Author: Roisin Herrera