In a world or urgency, a life of striving, a treadmill of anxious achievement, one thing seems to be increasingly necessary. An antidote to the stresses of this harder, faster, greater, further, more more more existence.
Not in itself a thing. You cannot hold it. It has no form. Stillness isn’t just freezing your limbs, fixing your gaze, holding your breath.
Stillness is a way of being. It is the gap between the doing. A deeper consciousness. An awareness of your very existence.
Stillness offered another is truly a gift. A place from which connection comes. A foundation for attention. Being with.
Stillness within. That is the real challenge.
“I’m just gathering my thoughts”
A phrase we use on occasion. Gathering them, like they might be scattered, lying disconnected from each other? Like gathering the facts, assembling them into knowledge or insight.
Or gathering them like we might gather the harvest? Reap the product of our endeavours. Or gathering them like we might gather the troops? Amassing them so that they might have more power, more force.
Maybe we gather them to untangle them? Or maybe we use that phrase to describe abandoning our thoughts for a moment. Leaving them to themselves so that we might be still. Present in the moment. Not with our thoughts at all.
So much variety in our language. So much room for misinterpretation.
Art by Susan Lenz
We spend a lot of time going.
On a bus the other day, gazing backwards out of the rear of the vehicle as it trundled up Park Lane, I noticed this. All around me were cars, buses, bikes, vans, lorries. All the occupants, driver or passenger, going. Where wasn’t clear, but they were all going. As was I. Glancing to the side there were pedestrians and cyclists on the path. Also going. An inline skater eased between these goers, also going? Peering skywards, an aeroplane could be made out, high in the clouds, going. Going further perhaps, but nonetheless going.
We are not often still.
When we’re not physically going, we’re mentally or emotionally going.
Going from here to there. There to here. Going forward, going backwards. Sometimes going sideways. Going round and around. Sometimes going, in order to go. Going to familiar places and to new places. Going to be with, going to be away from.
Or maybe we’re coming?
What’s the difference?
Are these people around me going or coming? Coming or going?
However they might describe their orientation of travel, of movement, one thing is clear. They are not still. They are not simply being. They are not just in the present. They are going, or coming, from or to. Past or future. Was, will be. Then, when.
Today seems still.
Little or no wind. Trees firm, statesman-like, statuesque. Clouds spread like a cottonwool blanket across the sky; not racing to a future destination, not rain laden, not billowing. The light calm and purposeful. A constant. Not indecisive, not pulled asunder by cloud and cloud break, not overpowering, just there.
As a result, wildlife seems content. Happy to be. The birds seem at peace. Much seems slower. The shadows seem an equal fixture to that that is physical; holding their place alongside the things that cast them.
Sounds seem more balanced, more in harmony with the stillness around. They seem to complement what can be seen and felt. Sensory symphony.
Still is good.