In Part 1, we looked at the gift of Nature and her ability to remind us of our own wholeness. Have you noticed anything new as you’ve spent more time with nature?
In this part, we’ll explore stillness, which will build on your experiences with Nature. When our mind slows down, we are more able to be relaxed, spontaneous, and in touch with the One from which we came. But first, we have to get past the “noise” which restricts our access to this natural flow.
We could say there are two types of “noise.” There is outer noise, which we hear with our ears, and inner noise, like the seemingly ceaseless chatter in our mind. This chatter is the product of our ego-minds, the part most of us identify with as “I.” Briefly, this is the “I” that believes it is our body, separate from everything and everyone else; even separate from God.
As part of this “outlook” on life, it generates a more or less continuous stream of judgments (opinions) of ourselves, others, and the world. It is the king/queen of right and wrong (usually assuming it is “right” and others are “wrong”).
Hamsters in Our Head?
This mind chatter can be likened to a crew of hamsters running on their wheels, with the same thoughts coming around again and again. There is constant activity, at least until they wear themselves out and take a little nap. Then they’re right back at it – they love to run on their wheels, especially when we’ve just had an argument with someone, and we’re trying to go to sleep!
We’ve all experienced the ego-mind’s talent for “disturbing the peace,” though there are many times when we are so identified with this “ego-mind” that we can’t step back and see it for what it is. When this occurs, we can only “react” to people and situations, usually in ways we later regret.
Another term that comes to me for this aspect is “amoeba-mind.” Amoebas, those cute little “mindless” blobs crawling around in the pond slime, demonstrate two particular behavior patterns common to humans and other creatures. They are seeking pleasure (or food in their case), and trying to avoid pain. It’s automatic, reactive survival stuff. It works pretty well if you’re an amoeba, but it can really screw things up in the realm of human relationships. You can probably recall an example from your own life in about a millisecond.
Some benefits of cultivating stillness are reduced “foot in mouth” experiences, and an enhanced ability to simply be present in the moment with whatever life sets in front of us, instead of reacting automatically. Stillness also offers the very best in stress reduction, because much of what people usually call stress is generated by our hyperactive hamsters. Now, there’s a scientific definition for you!
The heart creates the most powerful electrical field in the body; much stronger than the brain’s. Stillness fosters harmony between the electrical fields of the heart and brain, which has a calming and healing effect on all the cells of the body. But worried or pissed-off hamsters will discombobulate your energy field in a hurry (more scientific jargon)!
On a spiritual level, if our minds are restless, it’s hard to hear our Creator’s Voice speaking to us. Some refer to this as the “still, small voice within.”
Here is a quote from A Course in Miracles:
“Today He speaks to you. His Voice awaits your silence, for His Word can not be heard until your mind is quiet for a while, and meaningless desires have been stilled. Await His Word in quiet. There is peace within you to be called upon today, to help make ready your most holy mind to hear the Voice for its Creator speak.” (Workbook, p225)
The “most holy mind” referred to here is (I believe) the part of our mind still connected to, and in relationship with God (or The Creator, Spirit, Yahweh, Allah, the Great Mystery, or however you refer to the One from which you came).
The ego-mind (where the hamsters and amoebae live), is the part of our mind that perceives itself as separate from God, nature, and all our brothers & sisters, which creates an endless stream of difficulties.
On a personal level, this may manifest as fear, judgment, frustration, unhappiness, depression, compulsive achievement, greed, conflict in relationships, and other un-pleasantries. As a reflection of mass consciousness on a national or global level, it can become magnified into things like manipulation for power, deception, corporate greed, pollution, injustice, slavery and war.
“So, how do I get some of that stillness?” you ask. Easy, Wal-Mart has it on sale this week! Wait – don’t rush off, I was only kidding! Although if you observe advertising carefully, you will see that “happiness” is on sale almost everywhere, isn’t it? Well, the better you become at practicing stillness, the less susceptible you will be to manipulation by advertising’s little lies. So let’s get on with it!
• Willingness to set aside some time to sit with the likely discomfort of your restless hamsters
• Willingness to just let yourself “Be,” without having to “Do” anything. (Constant doing can be a distraction to avoid uncomfortable feelings that are trying to get a “word” in edgewise)
• A safe, relatively quiet space
A Suggested Practice
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position (no physical suffering required)
- See if you can sense where the majority of your awareness (or energy) is focused in your body. Most of us in Western culture tend to be focused in our heads.
- Gently bring your awareness down into the area deep in the center of your chest, in the area of your upper heart.
- See if you can sense a “resting place” that you “drop into” or where you feel “cozy” or “held” in this area of your body. This place has been said to be our connection with our Soul, or our Creator. Try “nestling in” and see what you feel.
- Let your busy hamsters take a nap. If they get restless, just turn on their TV and bring your focus back to your “resting place.”
If the TV doesn’t work, allow them be restless, without trying to do anything to fix them.
- Simply be present and feel whatever thoughts or feelings come up for you without giving it words or explanation (stories from the mind).
- The trick is to be a neutral observer of your thoughts or emotions, without getting caught up in them. Let them rest in the spaciousness of your heart, without resistance or engagement, and see/feel what happens.
- When (not if) you find yourself caught up in something, simply let it go, and return your awareness to your heart.
- If you are so inclined, you can ask to feel your Soul or your Creator holding you now.
- Hang out here as long as you like, as you keep bringing your awareness gently back to your “resting place” whenever you get distracted. This may occur every 10 seconds or so in the beginning (not kidding now).
- Notice how you feel when you’re done.
In your daily life:
Give this gift to yourself as often as you can, and notice how your mood and life experiences change as a result. The more you practice over time, the better you’ll feel, and the easier it will be to deal with normally stressful life situations. You are literally creating a new way of being in the world.
When you find yourself “rushing” (in your mind or body), notice how you feel inside when you’re in that mode. Compare this to the feeling you experience when you’ve settled into a nice stillness place. Is rushing a “well-oiled” groove you slip into? If so, what’s the rush? Really, what’s the rush? You can create a new “habit” of Inner Peace.
Notice the pattern of your thoughts when your amoeba-mind is jumping up and down, or hyperactive hamsters grab your attention away from the present moment. Make note of any familiar themes, and see if you can discern their source in your mind (e.g: fear-based beliefs, judgments of yourself or others, etc)
Let yourself take a time-out to step back, observe, and then make a new choice. This will take some practice, so don’t give up! (Hey, I’m still practicing!)
PS – If you feel you don’t have time to practice stillness, you will find this article helpful:
The Art of Being Your Own Best Friend
Go to: Part 1 - Nature’s Attraction
Go to: Part 3 – From Head to Heart