Monday, January 07, 2013

On Inviting Stillness

While vacationing with my sister-in-law Laurie in Florida, I had time to talk to her about the changes both she and I have made in our lives recently.

I've been stepping up my fitness level and am loving my new energy and my continually changing body. She has focused on changing her inner self, starting with a 21-day meditation program and eventually incorporating meditation and reflection into her daily life. There is a peace and a happiness about her that didn't used to be there. Or I should say, if it was, it did not exude from her being as it does now.

She invited me to join her in a 15-minute meditation session, following along a podcast from Deepak Chopra. Sure, I said, I'll try anything once.

I am telling you, those were the longest 15 minutes of my day. My fitness programs of 45 to 60 minutes go by in a heartbeat compared to those 15 minutes.

I have no idea how to achieve stillness. I do not know how to go "into my inner mind." I don't know how to actually relax, not physically but mentally. And it was such a deeply moving meditation about inviting abundance into your life that despite my obvious lack of comfort in the experience it brought me to tears anyway.

Part of what brought me to tears was realizing how very little I do this. And by "very little" I mean "never." My blogging is as close as I come to "stillness," and it doesn't come close to meditating.

I recently read a post by a European who wrote with derision about how busy Americans make themselves. "Americans think that packing action into every moment of their waking day means they lead full lives. I watch them scurry from landmark to landmark on their travels, never stopping to actually taste the wine, to enjoy the sights of a beautiful day in my country. Will they feel any more fulfilled at the end of their lives than I at mine?"

Another exercise Laurie had me try was on New Year's Eve, to issue out the old and welcome the new. She told me to write down on a piece of paper the things I wanted to leave behind in the old year, then burn that piece of paper. Then I was to write down the things I want to invite into my life in the New Year and meditate on those things.

I had a few days to think about what I wanted to leave behind. I have to say I'm really happy with my life. I have a good job, love my husband, my kids and extended family, we are fortunate in our financial situation, we are healthy and quite happy. Was there any part of what happened this past year that I would want to leave behind?

It took a run on the beach on my last day there for my mind to clear enough to decide upon three things I wanted to leave in the old year.


And to invite into the New Year:

Boundful patience

(I figure if I invite patience and stillness that anger and other negative emotions will take care of themselves.)

These two words -- patience and stillness -- enter my mind as soon as I awake in the morning. I think of them during my drive to work, and I focus on taking deep belly breaths throughout the day. Sure, there is no stillness in my life, but I am learning stillness in my mind.

I'm working on it, and that's more than I did before.


  1. Sallie9:31 PM

    Wonderful, on so many levels!

  2. Michael Schommer11:00 PM


    The poet Horace once wrote "Animum rege, qui nisi paret imperat". Loosely translated, it means 'Rule your mind, or it will rule you'. Regardless of his inspiration for writing this, Horace was nonetheless correct; our subconscious mind rules us, accepting input from our conscious minds before making its own decisions. This has been substantiated in fMRI studies, where scientists watching the fMRIs in real time knew a subjects decision eight seconds before he himself did.

    What does this possibly have to do with stillness? Having studied mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness meditation a little, I can tell you that your mind will rarely be still. The key to enjoying meditation and achieving stillness is to be aware of your mind wandering away from the focus you've chosen (breathing, your great toe, etc.), and lovingly release the distracting thought back into the ether, then returning to your intended focus. Don't chastise yourself for losing focus; the nature of your mind is to be busy and seek stimulation. Accept the distraction with the understanding that it's to be expected, that it's not an indictment of your meditation skills. Then just return to your focus, and relax--this is no big deal.

    Mindfulness is in essence attending fully to whatever you choose to do, and lovingly dismissing distractions. You can do it anywhere, for any amount of time. The next time you're feeling flustered at work, take a deep breath, pause, and listen to what your mind and body are saying to you. Congratulations--you've just been mindful! (No, really). Try eating a raisin or a piece of chocolate with your eyes closed, with the door closed and no distractions such as noise or extraneous smells. What does the food you're tasting feel like in your mouth? Roll it around, feel it's texture, note how it feels in different parts of your mouth. What does it taste like? Focus on feeling where the tastes come from, how they differ in different areas of your mouth. Is it chewy? Crunchy? Melty? What does the inside of the raisin taste and feel like, compared to the outside? This is actually a fun exercise, and an example of attending fully and mindfully to something. That is the trick--if there is one--to achieving and enjoying stillness; you must give yourself over to the experience completely, with the will to let go of distractions and just enjoy the moment.

    I feel like I haven't expressed this adequately; Horace would call it me a poor writer, and overly verbose. In any case, good luck!

  3. For years I did not know what meditation was. I tried and all I did was think of things and could not focus on meditation. In the process of sobering up I was directed to read a short reading on life and then meditate, sit quietly, for 15 minutes and then make a contract with the God of my understanding to stop drinking for 24 hours. I did that. Pretty soon I came to enjoy those alone minutes. Then I came to the realization I have been doing that for years. I like being alone in the woods. I have sat under trees for hours watching wildlife play nearby, I have been enthralled by a brook in winter burbling under the ice and snow. At home there are times I go outside and stand and gaze into the field or the woods. My mind becomes still. Thoughts flit and fly but don't stop and take up much time. I focus and refocus on a blossom, the way the light is filtering through the trees and quietly watch the dogs move about with their insatiable curiosity. I am relaxed, my mind is free and grateful for the peace. I come home with a better appreciation for things and am able to cope with the overactive mind I have the rest of the time. As I have said, be patient, don't rush the process, it will over take you.

  4. Mom and Done (for today)11:47 AM

    As you can tell, I'm getting caught up on your Blog today. Loved this post of yours also. I've been meditating for quite a few years now. Was most regular when I was working --think I needed it most then. I have a couple books and affirmations I use --they change depending on what I feel I need. I can get a 10point drop in my blood pressure by sitting quietly and OHMing for 10 minutes. I think my Dad meditated a lot without necessarily realizing it -- how peaceful to sit on a dock on a quiet lake and just let your thoughts roll by as you concentrate on your fishing line. It seems so many people learn this habit after a painful time in their life like Laurie had. I'm happy for you that you were wise enough to learn about it from someone else, hopefully without the painful time. It's a lifelong tool.
    You are taking care of your spirit and I do think that that's even more important than taking care of the physical. Even tho we must take care of our bodies physically, your energy and vitality really stems from your spirit, in my belief. This spirit will get people thru the most difficult times, like being bedridden, etc. I'm sure you saw Kristi's like on Facebook showing
    the man with no arms and legs -- talk about spirit, love of life and all those phrases.