“Space and silence are two aspects of the same thing. The same no-thing. They are externalization of inner space and inner silence, which is stillness: the infinitely creative womb of all existence.” ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
When we are busy playing hard and fastball in modern life, someone near and dear might stop us and remind us to slow down, or in other words be still. However, the art of stillness long practiced by ancient masters and seers has been continually suppressed by modern culture. The dilemma that has fallen into modern man’s lap is: how to cope with the spread of worldwide epidemics related to stress, mind and body imbalances which eventually manifest into psychosomatic disorders and even cancers. Reintegrating stillness into the mainstream is key to transitioning our rapid paced civilization towards cultivating more peaceful emotional states and overall wellbeing.
With the mention of stillness, comes doubt and fear that have been ingrained over years of subconscious patterning. A fear of being unproductive, running out of time, failing to measure up to that insurmountable bar. This perpetual desire for one-upping our neighbor can be seen on a macro level through the behaviors of intra-governmental relationships on a global scale. The East wants to outgrow and out power the West in industry and wealth, while the West heads East in search of that missing je ne sais crois that has been coined as “new-aged spirituality.” The grass is always greener on the other side as the story goes. And it seems that man’s eternal quest to find happiness has fallen short on the instant gratifications and a plethora of technological and cultural distractions that will perpetually leave a trail of disappointment.
“To be or not to be” says Hamlet in a moment of turmoil and self-anguish. If only our tendencies could evolve to think “how to be, and how not to be” instead of giving credence to our life’s dramas. How can we elevate the human condition beyond the proverbial hamster wheel of samsara (what the East calls the cycle of human suffering)? Is ignorance bliss in this scenario, or do we make a concerted effort to overcome our sufferings? In due time, everyone will find their own path and will arrive at their own answers, but the true test that will arrive on everyone’s spiritual doorstep will challenge how one is able to cultivate stillness.
As E’yen A. Gardner says, “being still does not mean don’t move, it means move in peace.” As true as that is, first, we must head back to kindergarten on the subject of stillness and destroy all the associations of those harsh “time-outs!” and “go to your rooms!” and any other societal restrictions. In parenting, instead of developing creative and truly caring relationships with our children, rearing the young has become full of angst and frustration. A parents’ well-intended discipline can translate as unjust confinement through the eyes of the innocent child. It is inevitable that with age, we will all gradually lose that playfulness we once embodied freely when unchallenged by the prevailing authority. And it is in our adult life that we start to question and re-evaluate what happened to us and around us during our youth in the hopes of returning towards wholeness.
It is not only from these restrictive seeds that we are programmed to associate stillness with imprisonment and bondage: On the other end of the spectrum, modern society encourages and breeds Type A personalities through the propagation of competitive sports, honor roll societies and through the whole premise of higher education and the corporate ladder. In these established systems, good intentions are clearly present. But sometimes a diehard coach or over controlling stage mom can breed subconscious fear – fear of disappointing and of failing. Out of the fear of failing, the “do do do” mentality is birthed and squelches the development of one’s ability to be content and satisfied with simple simplicity.
In the yogic tradition, this idea of contentment is called santosha. This concept often is confused with complacency, of which its implications are derived from previous psychological conditioning of “it’s not enough.” “It’s not enough” then translates into “I’m not enough,” which manifests as one trying to satiate this bottomless pit by incessantly occupying himself/herself with physical and/or mental activity.
And so the patterns of “do do do” become so deeply embedded in our mind to the brink of exhaustion. An argument can be made that a child’s natural state is not still, and so stillness would not be a natural phenomenon towards which mankind gravitates. In fact, it is through stillness we are born – under the protection of our mother’s womb, there is no pressure to do a thing – breathing, eating, and all vital activities are taken care of by the Mother, and so we are at peace and internally still until the arrival of that fated day when we cry our way into the secular world. From that point onwards, stillness is lost until we recognize the need to recoup long ago what we had.
We know through yogic science that the physical, mental and energetic bodies are intricately intertwined, and that they conceal the more subtle formless states. Athletes, yogis and meditators share a common denominator in where they are seeking for a “body high.” Yet this body high is really a stilling and a shedding of the physical, mental and energetic bodies. Athletes who have fostered an almost superhuman reputation like Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps have described their moments of greatness as being “in the zone,” a dynamic meditation where stillness harmonizes the three bodies in such a way that there is enough space between the thoughts. And when the mind is silenced, and thoughts are transcended, we are tapping into the other 90 percent of the brain that is ungoverned by logical thought. Often times when there is a fumble or mistake, more often than not, there is an over activity in the mental body, in thoughts. Second-guessing is everyone’s worst nightmare; but when stillness arrives, there is no doubt only fullness. So whether it’s dunking a basketball or whatever our passion in life is, getting “in the zone” and tapping into our hidden reservoir of silence sounds like a good piece of advice. If the art of stillness is experienced at very high levels by enlightened beings as well as the world’s top athletes surely the Everyman has the potential to tap into this as well.
All in all, the three different bodies need to be trained in cultivating a mind + body dialogue through a systematic blueprint of knowing how everything functions at any given moment. The physical blueprint and mental blueprint are being established simultaneously, as there can be no awareness cultivated over the physical without the use of the mental body. From this, there is an increase of energy that exponentially permeates the mind + body union. This harmony can then open the door towards stillness, and when one can establish himself in stillness and Be Still (B.lissful E.ssence- S.ilentT.ranquility I.nvokes L.ucid L.iberation) in all he/she does, then one can be established in what the yogis call moksha, liberation from bondage.