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The Pursuit of Stillness

What is stillness? Is it a feeling of calm; an absence of agitation or excitement. We often hear this terminology used in classes and we think we know what it is, but how do we accomplish it?

In today’s world, time is money and time is something we are all lacking. People are working less than they were 50 years ago but we have less spare time, we have more and more timesaving devices but less time to use them and we are constantly on the go, working on the go, staying connected on the go. The connected world means we can reach people far away – but in doing so, we’ve lost contact with ourselves … we’ve lost touch with the inner search engine. In such a world, when do we have the opportunity to find stillness other than when we are sleeping and ideally at some point on our mat?

Why am I focussed on stillness?

Let me share a story. A few months back I went for an eye test. Stupidly I was wearing my contact lenses which meant the test could not be completed until I had removed them for at least 30 mins. For most people that is not an issue. However, I am truly short sighted, which means that I am a danger to myself and those around me, if I try to do anything remotely requiring moderate coordination, like walking through a mall and buying a cup of coffee.

So I found myself in Magrabi Optical with nothing to do for 30mins … literally nothing! I was unable read a book or to look at my phone (I am so short sighted the phone needs to be 6 inches from my face – besides, that isn’t exactly resting my eyes). To be honest, I felt a small amount of panic. Actually the amount of panic I felt wasn't really small; it was kind of shocking. I was truly unsettled at the idea of sitting down for 30 minutes with my own thoughts. What is strange is that I do meditate but it seems, at the time, I required perfect conditions for my moments of stillness.

After the bout of panic, I decided that it wasn't healthy; that I should relish the opportunity to reflect and be with my own thoughts. I drew the conclusion that stillness is a process to be pursued, to be intentionally sought after and that it will manifest itself in ways unexpected.

For example, I found myself in stillness yesterday at a performance of the Australian Chamber Orchestra that Elisa and I attended. Closing my eyes and emptying my thoughts I could hear the individual instruments, literally feel the music. I found myself uplifted; it was a beautiful gift!

So, how does one pursue stillness?

Stillness can be portrayed in four different ways:

Day to Day Living:
Finding downtime, moments of quiet, not a literal “standstill” but a time when we don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

Breath:
The breath isn’t actually still either, but rather, calm, full and deep, where it is not affected by the circumstances of our lives, the stresses and changes.

Body:
When we resolve to be still, our body is still in a posture or in a moment, when we can actually notice everything that is happening in our bodies.

Mind:
Probably the hardest to accomplish, the stillness of our minds. When our mind is quiet, the chatter stops and we have the opportunity to be completely present.

Our yoga practice helps us significantly in finding stillness. During our physical practice, when we are able to connect our breath, to our body, while shutting out the chatter in our mind, we experience stillness for a few moments in time. It is relatively simpler in savasana but equally achievable during the most challenging of postures.

But how do we achieve stillness off the mat and in other areas of our lives? It isn’t easy, but there is always the opportunity to try, especially in those moments of chaos. Make stillness a part of your daily routine, perhaps it’s 10 minutes when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed. Stillness doesn’t have to be a moment of standing still, but simply a moment to connect to your breath, body, mind and life.

Stillness can be our greatest healer; a reminder to check in with ourselves, to let go of everything that we have to deal with. So, in today’s connected world, a world that is at war with itself, pursuing stillness within could be the difference between an anxiety attack and a turning point of renewed strength to face another day.

As I get older I have become convinced that ideas around stillness, have real relevance and usefulness in my pursuit of living the most happy and contented life I can. I now look for and cherish those moments of space to allow for a little bit of calm and appreciation.

See you on the mat,

John



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