Stillness and Silence

Cave Hill Creek retreat centre, Beaufort, Victoria.

Treadmill or trapped

Have you ever had that ‘on a treadmill’ feeling? You are running around in circles, not getting anywhere! The phone does not seem to stop ringing! The email list is endless and you are going from one commitment to the next! Your life seems to be rush rush rush! And when you finally get to stop – your inner engine keeps on running.

Have you ever had that facing a mountain feeling? The list of jobs is endless. There does not seem to be enough hours in the day. You are trying to be ‘present’ to people but as you are listening to them part of you is at the other meeting about to begin. You wish there were two of you or fewer of ‘them’.

Have you ever had that caught feeling? So many demands upon your time. So many people wanting a piece of you. So many questions to be answered, problems to be solved, differing views to be adjudicated and other needs met.

Do you ever feel that the noise in your head is incessant? The ego voice saying one thing one minute and then something else not long after. Voices of self-doubt. Voices of confusion. Voices warning you to look out for one enemy or threat and then questioning whether they are either enemy or threat and more!

In the midst of all of this, some goose writes a blog about coming as guest, being deeply present, allowing your heart to open in compassion and focus on the innate dignity of all and their sacred story! It can be all too much.

People of quiet presence

Have you on the other hand met people who seem to have all the time in the world? You meet those people who just seem to be ‘at home’ in their own skin. There is an aura of peace around them. They do not appear to be fighting battles nor on some enforced march or climbing any mountain and you ask, “What is their secret?”

There is a wonderful Australian Aboriginal woman from Daly River in the Northern Territory – her name is Auntie Miriam Rose. I have written about her before. Miriam Rose talks about ‘Dadirr’; deep inner heart listening. For the Aboriginal people of Daly River there is a deep oneness with all of life and this oneness is the fruit of stillness and silence! They can sit in a dry river bed and hear the trees – they sense what the earth is saying – and have a profound sense of the oneness of it all.

One of the most powerful experiences of my life was to be spending some time at Wadeye in the Northern Territory at an Aboriginal Community there. After several days, my friend, William Palmbuck gave me the honour of inviting me to join him and some of his extended family on country – on his people’s land. So we packed up the four wheel drive and carrying many more people than the legal limit for such a vehicle went ‘out bush’. William’s country bordered the sea and after an hour or so of bull riding movement in the front of the land cruiser crushed in between two of William’s aunties we arrived at a large tree next to a beautiful beach. Damien was trapped in ‘white man time’. I wanted to know what we were going to ‘do’ and ‘when’ we would do it. So the kids ran down to the beach to play and the old people (myself included) sat under this beautiful old tree. Over the hours that followed – every now and again people would get up and ‘do’ something like fish, collect food from the mangroves, go crabbing and more – but for most of the time we just sat there and did nothing. Eventually a fire was made and some billy tea boiled. Then – at some point – some of the fish was cooked and the crabs and other native delicacies enjoyed – all with a minimum of talk but a full wholesome presence.

Thank God that after several hours – Damien had enough sense to take his watch off his wrist and put it into his pocket; for he was THE only one conscious of time. After the watch got put away – I had one of the most precious days of my life – culminating in the most stunning sunset with twenty or so of my new found family sitting around me on the beach. During this precious time on several occasions I had to resist my white man temptation to reach for my watch “To see what time it is!” Who cared? Certainly William and his family didn’t. What was time anyway?

Recall a time in your life when you felt the power of stillness and silence?

The gift of stillness and silence

I don’t know about you but my feeling of treadmill or trapped seems to be in adverse proportion to my ability to spend time in stillness and silence. As people grow in inner wisdom they appear to need to speak less, sit more, wrap silence more – they appear more and more able just to be. In my almost twenty years of working with homeless people often I would find myself sitting at the edge of a park or city square with the homeless and especially the old men and women – they would be happy to just sit with me in silence. There was a strength of warmth and connection between us – there was no need for any talk.

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Dingo and Alf, two of my friends on the street – true contemplatives in the midst of noise and rush.

The present moment invites us and the doorway to the moment is stillness and silence. It is in that stillness and in that silence that we can hear; truly hear. Silence allows us to hear the ego whisper. Silence allows us to hear the ‘gut feeling’ – the intuition. Silence is full and complete when born of love. Silence allows us to hear our hearts. Silence invites us to listen to what our bodies want to say to us – but this listening takes time and asks of us a rhythm of stillness and silence – and once that rhythm and that silence is a part of who we are – then the body will whisper through image and feeling, through tickle and nudge, through deep down awareness beyond words.

Silence is that special no war-zone – no fighting space – a space to just be. Silence allows! Silence sifts the wisdom from the words – it sorts in its own time. Silence has its own time clock.

Stillness and silence point to balance – life balance. When rushing and ego driven we get so caught up in the noise of life that we lose perspective. When you sit still – when the forest or the beach, the night or the early morning wrap you – you see the bigger picture – you sense where and when the inner engine is in overdrive. This stillness and this silence is your window into ‘be-ing’; where you can ‘be’ and know that your essence, your beauty and your dignity as a ‘child of the Universe’ is innate – is in your BE-ing. In stillness and in silence you FEEL this.

Some fear stillness and silence

Some fear stillness and silence because they fear what they might hear and feel. They fear themselves. They fear their nakedness before life. Hush, there is nothing to fear. Too many of us ‘fill’ the void with noise and busyness – to numb that fear – and distract from the inner journey. We are not saying that we need to spend the rest of our lives cross legged in the Yoga position living off those around us! No – but we are saying that in the midst of life’s busyness – for life to be truly lived and savoured, enjoyed and have meaning, to learn from life’s lessons and to have something of the heart to pass on to the next generation – we need the rhythm of stillness and silence in our days.

Noise makes presence difficult. I can remember going to work in Melbourne on the train. I would catch the 7.23 am from Ginifer into Richmond and often I would be THE only one in the carriage who did not have earphones or mobile phone glued to ear. Too rarely did I catch an eye to exchange a smile. Too rarely did anyone notice anyone or anything – all caught up in our world of noise and busyness.

Stillness and silence are the cousins of peace. Peace is the fruit of silence and stillness. Have you ever watched a young mother with a child at the breast? Have you ever held a new born in your arms as they snuggle into your arms and make those gentle little baby noises? Have you ever found yourself drawn totally into that moment – of silence and stillness and PEACE.

Wisdom

Wisdom, true wisdom, not the plastic TV advertising type – is to be found deep within us all. When we attain a practice, a pattern, a rhythm of stillness and silence you grow gradually into awareness. In that space – like stairs going down you gradually grow more and more still. YOU fade away. The ego noise voice slows and finally goes silent. Then you begin to hear. At first you hear ‘gut feelings’. You hear a nudge. You hear a whisper. As you grow more and more still and silent you more easily ‘sense’, you begin to hear but not with ears – it is more of a sensing, an awareness, an intuition.

As silence and stillness slow you down – you can finally catch up with your ego self. Through stillness and silence you can hear (become aware of) the false voice, the false self, the ego. The ego wants to set up dualities – it loves win – lose, it feeds off competition and winning and making the world and ‘other’ into enemy. Silence and stillness unmask this and shows the ego up to be the fraud that it is.

Lovers

Lovers don’t need words! We are all lovers – that is our birthright. Have you ever sat in silence with another – or alone – in a full silence? It is truly profound. As a small boy my wonderful mother and father – Zena and Frank, would sit on the veranda before dinner and share a gin and tonic and dad a shandy (a beer and lemonade). They would often just sit in silence – nothing more – nothing less – profound oneness. Have you ever seen a couple walking along hand in hand – but silent! Have you ever sat by a hospital bed holding the hand of a loved one – and in silence?

Who is your life has had this gift of stillness, rhythm, balance and silence? What seemed to be their secret?

Silence is a special form of presence. Words can at times get in the way. Words can complicate and ‘fill the space’ which does not need to be filled. Silence and stillness gently and automatically, when the timing is right, unravel and untangle confusion. Stillness and silence allow the wisdom to float to the surface – the left field idea, the gut feeling, the hunch and the insight.

Skills:

Because we are so trapped in a world of noise – sometimes we need to learn – re-learn the skills of stillness and silence. Meditation techniques of posture and breathing awareness can help. Awareness around that ‘monkey mind’ that will begin to dance the second we are still and silent will assist. One never completely gets rid of the monkey mind – it is part of we humans as we are – but we can learn to tame it – with practice and some simple discipline.

  1. Be aware of distractions (the monkey mind)
  2. Welcome them and acknowledge them
  3. Gently let them go and return to your breathing or sacred word or silence
  4. When they come up again – which they will – just repeat 1 to 3 and then again and again. It is a dance but the time will come when the spaces of silence will grow and the stillness become deeper.

Do it YOUR way

All that I have written in this reflection can seem so difficult to achieve. The key – the answer is to do it YOUR way. Find your way to be still and silent in YOUR time. There is NO best way, no right way. Whatever works for YOU is the right and best way. And don’t over complicate it – find the simple way to be still and the simple way to weave silence through your day. The beach walk, the early morning surf, time to journal, meditation, yoga, play a musical instrument, the wine slowly sipped, the candle, the time in the garden, the walk in the forest, the jog, and the walk with your partner – whatever!!!

I know it sounds crazy but the more we weave stillness and silence through our lives the more we will grow in guest-ness, in presence, in compassion and in liberation! As we embrace these we will, in our own unique way, grow to become the person we were always called to be in this beautiful Universe!

Questions:

What is YOUR method of finding space, being silent and still? What works for you (however small)?

What is the major block to you finding a rhythm of stillness and silence within your life? What is ONE small five second choice you could make to address this block?

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