Think back in your life to a moment where you were watching an animal that was unaware of your presence, or when you were watching a baby sleep, a child at play—anytime in your life when you were just watching with no urge to change or interact with the scene in front of you. Think about how this felt, can you remember how quiet your mind was? Can you remember how quiet everything was? Can you remember how it seemed that nothing else existed except what was in front of you? Can you remember how still everything was?
Nearly every spiritual practice has the idea of stilling the body, the mind, and the emotions to bring ourselves to a place of open receptivity, a place of peace and calm. Although this sounds simple enough, most people struggle with being still. We have trouble meditating or keeping our mind focused on our intentions, our prayers, but the problem lies not in our ability to be still, but rather our misconception of what stillness is.
The stillness we are looking for is not sitting unmoving in meditation or prayer. Stillness is not the lack of any thought, feeling, or sensation. Stillness is not withdrawal from the external world so that we are detached and unaware, nor is it the rigid control of our body or our feelings. The stillness we are talking about is not the cessation of anything at all. In fact, as contradictory as it sounds, stillness is a matter of immersing ourselves in everything.
We become quiet and open to life as it unfolds before us, without the distortion caused by judgments or filters. The body and mind are in unison, intently focusing as vast awareness, openly drinking in every detail, every sensation that is being offered to us in the present moment.
This is stillness.
What’s exceptionally beautiful about this type of stillness is that it is available to us all the time. We just have to stop and notice it. A few moments ago when I asked you to think back on a time when you were observing something, didn’t you start to slip into that same state as when you were in the moment? Stillness is not becoming lost in the moment, so much as it is being aware of the moment and you can find this quiet stillness anytime you wish. Close your eyes and imagine what it feels like to be the watcher, to become aware of everything around you, and you’ll become aware of the stillness within you. It never goes anywhere and you don’t have to formally meditate or follow a spiritual path, you simply have to take notice of what stillness feels like and it will come. You may even be surprised by how quickly it comes, because this stillness and awareness is our natural state underneath the turmoil perceived by our minds.
And how peaceful it is to return to our natural state.