DISCOVERING TRUE STILLNESS
IN A VERY NOISY WORLD
There is no doubt that we live in a very noisy world. There is the noise that is extremely obvious like the traffic on the road, the planes in the sky, the music blaring out in the majority of shops and malls, and then there is the noise made by 7 billion+ of us as we go about our daily lives. But there is also the constant noise of the chatter – the chitta – in our heads, chatter that can take us off course and that at times makes no sense at all. As all noise is a vibration – and a very discordant one at the best of times – it is a vibration that cannot but affect us as it endlessly passes through our bodies.
It is very obvious that within our lives there is very little sense of stillness.
So, is it possible to live in this world of ours without being affected by the endless noise, without any tension building in our bodies and without it distracting us from the purpose of why we are here? I used to be totally immersed in the noise of the world allowing myself to be continually buffeted by the sounds around me and endlessly wanting to escape to the summit of a mountain, or into a deep, dark cave to get away from it all, to find some sense of stillness in my life. The only downside to this fantasy was that I knew that eventually I would have to come out of the cave and down the mountain and be greeted by the noise of the world once again.
And so, I continued to live the noisy, tension filled life I had become used to but all the while I could sense that there was another away to live, one in which I could still live in the world but not be affected by it. I tried many forms of meditation which promised to be the panacea for this perceived problem but as soon as I came out of the meditative state I had been in I didn’t feel any different, except if I had been sitting for ages with my legs crossed, I would be in a lot of pain and would hobble around until the pain subsided. It did not take me too long to realise that this did not make sense – what part did pain have in a meditation which was supposed to offer me peace and serenity? None whatsoever said the wise part of me.
Over the last 15 years, I have been discovering a way out of the noise and how to access a deeper understanding of the true meaning of stillness, and it is vastly different from what I had always considered it to be. Previously stillness had simply meant a complete lack of movement – coming to a stop – and a lack of any sound and I am sure that most of us would have the same description of this word.
From the commitment I have begun to make to get to know my body more deeply than I have ever done, to understand how I move through the daily events of my life and how I interact with everyone I meet, I have also come to understand what stillness truly is and in doing so my life has changed in many wonderful ways. As a result, the noise of the world and the constant noise in my head is having less and less of an impact on me, my body, and the way I live.
What I have come to understand without a shadow of a doubt is that stillness is not, in the first instance, something that is found outside of me - in a cave or up a mountain - it is actually a quality that comes from within; a natural part of me and of my Soul. And it does not matter where I am or what I am doing, at any given moment I can make the choice to stop, to breathe my own breath and connect to my body, to my Soul and to the stillness I now know is only an alignment away.
But for a huge part of my life the connection to my body, to my Soul and therefore to this innate inner stillness was totally absent. I can see that more often than not I would look for it outside of me, mostly in nature. I also realise, that when I would sit quietly in the early morning or late evening sun or stop to gaze in wonderment at the stars at night, I may have been surrounded by the stillness that nature endlessly offers us, but within me, there was often a constant turmoil.
Then there were the endless times when I would stop and lay myself down to rest, but although I was physically stopped, as in not moving my body, my mind would still be chattering away to me, replaying the events of my day so far, my most recent drama and even worrying about what may come next to wobble my world. So, I may have stopped what I was doing and instead be sitting or lying down in a quiet space, but inside of me there was a world of buzzing activity which seeped into every cell in my body, and when I finally got up, I would continue to move with this ‘buzz’. There was definitely no stillness within me in any version of the word.
But all that started to change in my 56th year in this life when I was introduced to an amazingly simple and very gentle meditation. This meditation was not like the many I had done in the past where I was guided to wander off along a winding path, past a shimmering lake or up a mountain track with singing birds and delicate butterflies, but one that with each gentle breath connected me more and more to my body. It was amazingly simple, but at the same time, it was so incredibly profound, and it made so much sense!
Even though that was many years ago, I can still remember ever so clearly taking that first gentle breath in through the tip of my nose, and then a few seconds later feeling the delicate warmth of the air as I breathed out through my nose. With each breath, I could feel myself sink a little further into my body and as I did, I became aware of many points of tension, and in some parts, actual pain and the incessant chatter that had been playing out in my head. But this time I did not want to run away from any of these feelings as I most likely would have chosen to do in the past, instead, I chose to sit with them and to continue to focus on my breathing.
I know now that that was probably the first time in my life that I was breathing for me – my breath – and not in reaction to the tension, the dramas of my life and the chaos and the noise of the world around me and within me. And it had taken many years to do so.
I may have only been doing this meditation for four or five minutes but when I finally opened my eyes, it felt like I had been deeply resting for hours. I also had an absolute sense of something around me and within me, a feeling that felt so familiar but at the same time something I could not remember experiencing in this life. This, I finally came to know as true stillness, a quality of my Soul.
To me, this stillness feels like being held in the warmest, loving hug and with it comes a deep and revealing sense of clarity. It is like everything inside me stops and waits for me to catch up. There is no racing into the future and no wallowing in the past with all the accompanying ‘what if‘s'. There is just the simplicity of being consciously present with myself and my body, a body that for a long time I was usually trying to ignore but a body I now want to stay in connection with so I can get to know it more intimately. That makes so much sense, as after all it is my ‘vehicle’ for life, supporting me from my first breath to my last.
And as I stop writing for a moment, close my eyes very delicately and take a very gentle breath in and out through the tip of my nose, there is that stillness once more, in fact, it had never gone. It is only me making the choice to let the disruptions – the noise of my life – intrude, and in doing so, I disconnect from the essence of who I naturally am. So, why would we choose to disconnect from something that is a natural part of us and an exceptionally beautiful part at that? It does not make sense in any shape or form, but it is still something that many of us do for so much of the time.
I have come to know that no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, who I am with and no matter how noisy it is around me, and within me, in any given moment I can still make the choice to pause, to reconnect to my breath and focus on its quality for a few moments, checking in with my body, and re-connecting to the stillness within. It is in this moment I feel the presence of my Soul and God. And the best thing is that I do not have to remove myself from the noisy world to find a quiet space, as that quiet space, that stillness I am seeking, is always within me, a constant in my life.
My commitment to building this foundation of stillness, one which supports me to be deeply present with myself in life, continues. It is an endless but very joyful commitment and one that is free of perfection. And as I choose to make this deeply loving choice to get to know my inner stillness even more, I am observing that my awareness of everything within me, of everything I am doing and my awareness of everyone and everything around me, is growing as well. I have come to understand that the healing ripples of stillness flow far and wide, out into a world that is, more often than not, very noisy.