Embracing Stillness

In mindfulness we embrace stillness. Stillness leads to clarity. If puddle of muddy water is left undisturbed for a period of time, it eventually becomes clear as dirt particles settle to the bottom. Clarity is an addition by subtraction– we value what is not there rather than what is there. Just as clear water is a potential of a muddy puddle, a clear mind is a potential of one filled with mental clutter. When we breathe mindfully and observe the arising and passing of our thoughts, without resisting or clinging to them, our mental turbidity will gradually decrease, leaving a clear mind that dwells in stillness.

If we were lost in the woods and came across a small muddy puddle of water, we would be wise to wait patiently until the mud settles before drinking from it. To still the mind also requires patience.  In the same way that agitating a puddle of water with a stick makes it muddy, we muddle our minds by getting caught up in our thoughts.  Getting involved in thoughts saps our energy and contributes to the restless chatter in our heads.  If we can gain some degree of detachment from our mental phenomena, our thoughts and feelings will come and go without taking hold of our minds.  The mind then calms on its own. 

Stillness implies a state of being rather than one of doing.  Most of the time our minds are busy doing something, such as processing thoughts, memories, emotional impulses, and so on.  All too often we get so consumed by our mental preoccupations that we are not aware of much else.  Mindfulness does not mean that we should  suppress our thoughts and feelings in any way– just that we should be aware of them as they arise. When we’re thinking, we should be aware that we’re thinking; when we’re remembering, we should be aware that we’re remembering; when we’re feeling upset, we should be aware that we’re feeling upset.   By keeping watch on our mental contents, we subtly shift our attention away from our mental doings toward the vast, sacred silence that is our inner being.  When our awareness is centered on inner being, we become more human, more alive.  After all, we are human beings, not human automatons.

Stillness is the essence of infinite happiness and lasting contentment. Some people travel to exotic destinations to look for happiness and excitement.  The sheer strangeness and wonder of the new place may shock their senses into the excitement they seek.  But this temporary excitement should not to be mistaken for true, lasting happiness. True happiness does not require us to travel to a beautiful tropical island half the world away. It is here now.  Finding it is just a matter of waking up to the present moment.

This awakening requires that the mind be still. When the mind is still, it has no interest in grasping to things– it is content in itself.  Being content in itself means nothing else has to happen (i.e., we need not book a trip to some exotic island).  Arriving at the present moment is the direct path to true happiness and contentment.

Clearing the mind does not leave us with an empty head, but one brimming with awareness.  This expanded awareness is the capacity for clear seeing and clear thinking not possible with a cluttered mind. We gain communion with the inner stillness from which all diversity is born.  If we do not have clear comprehension of this sacred stillness, but instead attempt to grapple with its 1001 expressions, life may seem too complex and chaotic to make any sense to us. 

Stillness is a spiritual reality, not a concept to dissect intellectually. We often liken spirituality to a path. A path implies traversing space and time.  Yet, if we follow a spiritual path diligently, all that it can take us to is the here and now.  That is, the goal of a spiritual quest is to arrive at where we are now.  Spirituality is not so much about traveling through space and time as it about gaining clear comprehension of them.  Spirituality is both the journey and the goal, and when we succeed, we awaken to our true essence.