Can you think of things you would rather do than be Silent and Still? I sure can. But I discovered a doorway on my journey toward rejecting the power of Momentum and Adrenaline in favor of a better paced and disciplined life. This doorway is the state of being Silent and Still. So I have been spending time in the way of Silence and Stillness (S&S). Though most religions and spiritual paths strongly recommend these 2 disciplines, I am aware that they are usually a counter cultural choice. However, I am advocating for this choice nonetheless. And not necessarily as a means of spirituality, though that is one benefit, but as a means to a more relaxed and joyful life!
Good habits are harder to form.
Because I am human, I am not drawn inherently to what is good for me. It is much easier to do things that “feel good” and are rewarded, internally or externally. So I will start this blog with what I hate about Silence and Stillness and why I tend to resist spending time there. A strong deterrent to being in S&S is that it shreds skin off my ego. I am not doing anything to be loved, effective, or successful when I am in S&S. I am just in my naked being and that can be a recipe for feeling inadequate for me and many other humans. Who am I if I am not shoring up my ego and my sense of identity? The pain of feeling inadequate and useless is often enough to keep me staying busy and avoiding the Silence.
Here, there is no where to hide
Another reason I hate S&S is the raw and upsetting power of my inner feelings can sometimes start screaming at me there. I am without the myriad of distractions I use to hide from them. When in S&S I don’t have anything to focus upon but what is happening inside of me and in times of stress that is usually an emotional S- -t storm. When I am silent and still that storm rages very loudly and can seem all encompassing.
Finally, I hate Stillness because I love movement. I have been an athlete my entire life. First because my father insisted upon my participation in sports. But later because I came to love sports, playing, and moving my body. When I sit still I can feel antsy and jittery. All that habit of movement suddenly stopped because my will decided I need to be still. I may know it’s good for me, but like taking cod-liver oil as a child, I can avoid it like the plague because it “tastes” terrible.
I do it anyway.
The above none withstanding, I still consistently make time for S&S and I will tell you why I do! First, being silent and still helps reacquaint me with my TRUE self. The parts of Wanda that are not embellished or polished up to be shiny like my ego. I can connect to the parts of my deepest and truest being, and the feelings and values that I hold most dear. The qualities and quirks that make me uniquely me. There is a feeling of coming home to myself when I can get to this place. I feel deep relief and a sense of safely. I wish I could get here by chattering and racing about, but somehow I cannot.
Secondly, S&S frees me from the obsessive cycle of doing, accomplishing, and racing about like a crazy person showing my usefulness and my value by what can be measured outwardly. This pattern is familiar but exhausting. I have been working to change it for a long time now since I have lived this way since childhood. It has been a long term pattern. But those are changeable…when we do something different than the pattern. S&S are a way that I weaken the hold of this cycle on my body and my Autonomic Nervous system.
Calm the storm
Lastly, (just due to brevity, I could list many more reasons) S&S allows me to compassionately connect and be present to the hidden emotional s- – t storms that can rage inside of me. These storms come from early traumas and scary experiences. They cause imprints of fear, anger and shame in my body. But I have learned to sit with unpleasant sensation and imprints, or very strong emotion, and feel no pressure to do something about them. As I do this, the sensations begin to weaken and I feel more clear, honest and empowered to live out what I feel and know to be true. The stillness allows body integration and a resetting of the deep cellular processes. S&S also re-set the chronic body bracing that tends to come with high emotion and old traumatic imprints. What is most surprising to me, is that I feel the most joyful and hopeful about my life in times of S&S, not when I am busy living it. (If these storms always overwhelm you, instead of moving towards settling, as you sit with them, you may need a bit of outside support for them. Therapy, yoga, support group, etc.)
It reduces stress and anxiety.
So though it is hard and I hate these disciplines at times, I still make time and space for them. My stress levels and anxiety decrease when I do. I also feel more equanimity about my human status, the fact I am beautiful and broken. And in so doing I am more able to connect with my sense of the Divine and the force of Love and goodness in this life. This allows for better empathy and true connection with other beautiful, struggling humans.
So if you don’t spend anytime in S&S, I encourage you, give it a try. But more than once, it takes a bit of effort to make a new habit. But I can promise you, it will benefit you immensely.
Check out Pico Iyer’s book, “The Art of Stillness”, it is a short but wonderful read. He sings the praises of these practices so much better than I. Here is a Ted talk he gave a few years ago. https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_the_art_of_stillness?language=en
How do you feel about Silence and Stillness? Are you able to sit quietly at times? If so, what do you experience in your mind and in your body?
If you avoid S&S, do you know why? What is the main block for you? Are you willing to risk trying it a bit more?