“If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.” – Chuang Tzu, Taoist philosopher
Throughout the ages, philosophers and spiritual leaders have emphasized the importance of cultivating stillness.
From the Bible to the Bhagavad Gita, stillness is considered the pathway to connecting with the divine. In holistic arts, contemplation practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong serve as tools to create the sense of being still, even through movement.
In his book Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness (Pocket Books, 1996), yogi Erich Schiffmann writes, “Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited participation in the moment you are in when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.”
When life is in overdrive, it’s easy to wish you were somewhere else, doing something else. Our thoughts take us elsewhere in time, thereby creating resistance to what is. Cultivating stillness brings us back to our true selves the part that isn’t defined by external factors. Deborah Kern, Ph.D., women’s wellness expert and author of Create the Body Your Soul Desires (Southern Century Press, 2003), defines stillness as, “the connection to something unchangeable.” She says, “If we don’t practice stillness, then we’re operating in the world from an automatic place . . . we don’t really know who we are.”
In an age when most people can’t or won’t leave the house without a cell phone, eking out twenty minutes a day to spend in solitude and stillness may be challenging at first. But never has it been more essential. While meditation boasts such well-documented benefits as reduced pain and stress, lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increased longevity and quality of life, stillness practices also keep you in touch with your true self and the present moment, helping you live an authentic, attentive life one breath at a time.
To get started, Kern suggests trying a few different contemplation practices that appeal to you.
- Experiment with a calming practice that includes a sensory focal point, such as lighting a candle, repeating a scripture, or even taking a meditative walk.
- Once the place of stillness becomes familiar, Schiffmann advocates returning to this ‘center’ throughout the day. He writes, “Relax into where you are, breathe, and consciously be present in the now. Do this as you are driving, working, in the midst of a conversation anything, everything all day long.”