Inside Yoga 189 (9/1/2017)
Do you feel like you are constantly on the move? Always on the go, from one task to the next, never finding the time to stop, our heads filled with everything all at once, juggling and rarely feeling on top of it all? Then when we do find the time to stop we are so unaccustomed to being still it feels uncomfortable and weird, so much so that we are too restless to benefit from it.
So we give up the break we have found and rush off, again. Yet, nothing has changed, as we still feel rushed off our feet and overwhelmed by the busyness of our lives, but at the same time we don’t like stillness even though it’s the very solution we need.
Most people who practice yoga, or seated meditation, notice how uncomfortable the silence can feel at first; it feels weird and strange and simply unsettling, usually because we are not used to it. And those who have persevered have seen that gradually this stillness I describe becomes a natural place to be.
We aim for the stillness not by grasping for it, but by creating the conditions for it to rise within us, because we could be in a busy train station, we could be in a yoga posture or seated in meditation, and we feel still within.
This is the crucial point about stillness, that even when moving with yoga postures we seek to feel stillness within us as we practice. Yoga exercises are designed to get rid of the physical restlessness which can be a barrier to stillness as much as our minds can be.
Eventually as we sit in meditation and notice the thoughts rising, and passing, we feel a sense of stillness. It is the state of stillness that both the sharpness of clarity and the joy of bliss are experienced.
How do we achieve stillness? Practice patience. Learning to stick with your practice is the key because no one says meditation (and I include yoga asanas [postures] here) is easy but it takes time to settle into the practice.
To illustrate this: picture a pond or lake, where the water surface is still. All appears calm on the surface, but under the surface there are water currents and bubbles rising to the surface causing all kinds of movement.
Our mind and body is like this pond; as practice yoga asanas or we sit and meditate the thoughts keep rising, like bubbles rising to the surface. We have a choice of engaging with these thoughts and losing track of the practice, or we can let the bubbles rise and disperse, leaving behind the stillness and the focus on practice.
It takes determination to stick with the practice but gradually the bubbles become less of a distraction and eventually we notice there are less bubbles rising. We are still.
For some of us we might feel that our mind is not a pond but a river’s rapids, but we still use the same practice to reach stillness. We anchor ourselves first so the rapids don’t take us away, for example, practising yoga asanas is a good way of shedding some of the rapids, by settling our body and mind ready for seated meditation and rest at the end, when our metaphorical rapids have changed to a slow moving river, and eventually we arrive at the lake which is (relatively) still. Then we experience periodic bubbles rising as opposed to rushing rapids.
We need to see this in both a short term view (of one practice session) and long term view of practice goals: when we have reached the point in our practice when we feel still, we will see how more aware and alert to the rising thoughts, and as a consequence less distracted and disturbed by them, leaving us with a steady sense of equanimity with our thoughts.
This is when stillness is achieved and the joy of being quiet is experienced. Reason enough to be still.
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