Sitting in Central Park early in the morning, I notice the gift of being in the presence of the silence of trees. As I look at patterns of light and shadow playing on their trunks and branches, and on the ground around them, something in me settles even more. The silence, steadiness, and stillness of the trees invite me to join them, especially the mature trees with broad, strong trunks. As people come and go, which they do in the early morning, their dogs off leash having a seemingly perfect dog experience, the silence is always there, something to return to when people and animals move on.
This reminds me of the importance of having moments to return to silence and stillness in the course of our busy lives. It doesn’t take a lot of time to settle into stillness. It is a habit that needs to be practiced, though. For this week’s experiment, I’d like to offer a couple of ways I’ve used to return to stillness throughout the day, simply to take in some refreshment from this ever-present resource. Some of these I’ve shared before, but I think it’s helpful to be reminded of them:
First, notice what it’s like if you were to recognize that, always right there in the background of your experience, there is an infinite field of stillness. It is never not there. We just don’t pay attention to it most of the time. For this part of the experiment, notice what you experience when you imagine that the background of stillness is an actual presence that you can internally lean into and rest for a moment. Each of us will have a unique way to experience this, so play with what brings it to life for you. Then, notice how long is best for you to simply rest in the stillness. I may only have a minute or so available at times, but even that short respite is enough to revitalize me and nourish my body-mind being.
Another way to access stillness is to follow the next out-breath down to the bottom of the breath and hang out there, in the still point that inevitably emerges between breaths. Some gaps, or still points between breaths, are long and some are quite short. Don’t try to control them. Simply notice them and hang out in the stillness you find there as you continue to breathe. Again, notice how you feel as you give this exercise whatever amount of time works best for you.
A third way to play with accessing stillness is to imagine a large, open bowl resting on your pelvic floor. With the next out-breath, allow your consciousness to flow with that out-breath down into the bowl. Fill the bowl with your awareness and linger there as you continue to breathe for as long as you’d like. It’s as though the ever-returning out- breath offers you a way to pour yourself down into the bowl, to have time to rest there.
A companion to stillness can be a sense of steadiness. Notice if this emerges in your experience of hanging out with stillness. If it does, pay attention to the physical sensations that tell you it’s there and let yourself become increasingly familiar with where steadiness lives in your body. It can be an important resource in the midst of a busy life.
As with all these experiments, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. It is a powerful playmate and a solid support to being open to discover something new.