Still is not mindless, motionless, inactive.
I mention stillness a lot, because it is the important ingredient to bring us the clarity and the confidence, the connections we need, are essential, and are craving. It gets to the core conversation our pain, passions, and suffering is trying to have with us.
So what is it? How do we know it when we’re there? Howard Thurman calls it our Inner Alter, some practices call it our core, our kundalini, our Chi, Flow, our essential self. It is an emptiness that is full. What? There are a lot of names for it. We can see from this list, stillness is not inactive. It is actually engaged.
When nature is in stillness, we think of winter, hibernation, bulbs, leafless trees, frozen water and the life within it. But are they stopped? We know they are not. They have slowed into a different way of being. They would cease without it.
If the sky has no clouds, it is still but is it empty, motionless? If a lake is clear like glass, is nothing happening beneath the still water?
I’ve been looking back at the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and he has this statement at the beginning of his book The Nature and Destiny of Man, the first line: “Man is his own most vexing problem.” Let's see if we can un-vex ourselves.
How do we do it? We practice. Micro moments at first, and it becomes more natural. It is not one more thing to make time for. Stillness can be a state of being. It is also a connection. It is also engaged. Alive.
We can start in the basics by becoming mindful of our senses. This happens in micro moments as you experience yourself, then eventually expand to your environments, others. It’s presence, being in the present, and also timeless. It’s not about comparing how it was yesterday or last year or when you were 7 or how you were chastised or lifted up. You can get to those things if you like, but any healing and discovery may be approached another way at another time. Here we are simply being still and in the company of our selves, leaning in to now, while the world is still busy, even while we may even be busy.
What do we hear near or far? What does the air, water, bubbles feel like on our skin? What do we see in front of us- now expand this further, and around. How do things taste? Do you actually enjoy the taste and temperatures of what you put in your mouth? How these things feel in your mind and body as they become a part of you? Notice the moisture of your mouth, eyes, nose, joints. How your body moves in space. What do you joints do? Can they move differently than your normal activities? Maybe a stretch or a roll might feel good. We can expand upon this. Further or closer distances, more details and awareness.
Next, we can be still enough to notice others. Nature patterns, how are you alike and different or connected? Without over thinking. Creatures, plants, water, weather.
Notice the people you engage with, by caring or avoiding. Are you really present? Are you distracted? How difficult is it to listen, really be in the moment with your senses and lean towards them? It takes stillness to get to really know someone and to keep current with those we do. It takes stillness to be kind to strangers, to be aware of our biases and discomforts and then understand how we might need to address these awarenesses.
Stillness is presence, awareness, and when we engage, we are engaging from our core knowing, carrying that stillness with us in our engagement, keeping that presence and awareness of self, others, environments in check with our core knowing.
When people contact me, it is with a spectrum of reasons. Oftentimes, the first thing we will need to do is steady, stop the spin so we can be in a truly productive, caring, space. We all know that spin, every one of us. It’s part of our design. That soul spin. That mind spin, that heart spin we all know so well. The body is feeling it too. Maybe sleep or digestion is off, there could be inflammation or other pain.
Without attending the spin, it doesn’t really matter what we do next, because they are looking for anyone, something to feel better. People often will keep going to anyone, try many things, and lots of options are out there, to feel better, get relief, get on track, get back to “something” that was. That something that was is themselves, their core. Or, they go the other way into deeper despair, separating themselves from others and really even themselves, and hopelessness can fester.
We know when we’re off. We know when we’re needing something. We do have a care and feeding guide within us, and our different bodies within our mind, emotions, intellect, body, spirit - creating our whole self- are in ready communication with the us that is the front of mind self having busy thoughts and processing the world zooming around conscientiously and running all over the place.
That wanting for connection with our intuition, with others, with a relationship and conversation between our mind, body, spirit bodies, living into our care and feeding guide and our front of mind busy self is asking for a bridge, like a can on a string. That can in a string is stillness.
I’ve included a link to Howard Thurman lecture on the Inward Sea and another excerpt from John O’ Donahue. Enjoy.
Howard Thurman: Charting the Inward Sea (37 minutes)
John O'Donahue: Trusting the Indirect Side of Yourself (8 minutes?)
May all beings be in peace.
Ama la vita d’altro,
Rev. Dr. Birdi Sinclair
Interfaith Spiritual Care and Counseling
Wholeness Arts Specialist and Creator
“Begin Peace now. Each now is new.”
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