Shadows and Stillness



These are damp and bare times.  Dampness drives me to wrap myself in layers, to drink multiple cups of cocoa, to savor warmth.  And it invites me to sit still, to reflect, contemplate, meditate. Dampness also slows me down, even weighs me down.  The bareness brings me back to what is essential. In nature, there is not much extra around this time of year. Nothing is growing, nothing is blooming, really anywhere in the Northern hemisphere.  Light and shadow is all. The shadows beckon with a kind of warmth, womb-like, soft. The light provides a stillness that is uncanny, a kind of precision and clarity. It is a good time to allow this outer simplicity to bring you inward, toward your own essentials.  In the rush and flow of our active culture, you may easily lose touch with what is constant and essential within you. Sometimes it is hard to know it is even available.

 So, how can you access what is essential? One way is to sit still, doing nothing for as long as it takes to come home to yourself.  It could be a long time. OR it could be just a moment, a flash. Either way when you are home, you know it. Home in your own body, home in your own knowing.  Your body knows, you know. And even when it isn’t comfortable it is still yours.  

There is a long tradition of sitting still.  Thousands of years of sitting still you might say, beginning officially with the Shakymuni Buddha 2,500 years ago, but probably even before that, people often sat still.  They recognized the value of sitting, resting their minds, slowing or stopping activity in service of deeper knowing. Sitting still can be challenging. Or it can be such a relief.  You can sit while the chaos of your mind weighs in. Or you can sit while the repeated injunctions to DO something circle. And you can sit feeling dull, listless even. Meanwhile, the very light of your own attention can transform any kind of experience into clear open awareness, the natural freedom of just being.  Something inside you knows that this sitting still is essential, even nourishing, and yet we often regard it as useless, without substantive goals, without any apparent immediate results. Sitting with all of this, this chaos, this boredom, this knowing, is a kind of love for yourself that doesn’t really happen any other way or anywhere else that I know of.

A strange and bedeviling paradox remains in the partnership of movement and stillness.  Just like the light and shadow that is everywhere right now, you can’t have one without the other. You could even say that stillness is the shadow of activity. Just look at your own activity, how you move until you can’t move most of time.  How when you finally sit still a lingering feeling of loss, of wrongness can set in, so much so that you might even feel guilty for finally stopping. The movement still has momentum; you try to get all the dishes done before bed, try to respond to one more email before closing the computer, try to make one more stop before going home for the day.  And strangely, paradoxically, counter-intuitively, the more you try, the less gets done. And the more you rest, the more you sit, the more that actually can happen.
Try it. See what happens if you sit still for just 5 minutes each day. See what even that little bit of stillness, little bit of shadow does for how you feel.
Let me know.

Josephine SpilkaComment