As important as it is to move every day, making time to be still is of equal importance. It is the quiet yin to the yang of activity, the vessel that holds the fire of creation. Without stillness you can only hope to achieve half your potential.
The modern world is antithetical to cultivating mindfulness. The Internet tempts users with unbridled access to unlimited information: images, videos, games, information, with no limiters and every opportunity to get even more. Many games–especially mobile games–are Skinner boxes that draw the player in with bright colours, instant gratification, and just enough frustration to keep the player wanting to keep playing in, for a small, small price. Social media lets you share your thoughts on anything an everything, peek into the lives of people you want to follow, and deliver and receive instant gratification through like and share buttons and quick comments. Web articles with clickbait titles stir up your passions and suck you in, then drive you on to even more clickbait. Devices ring with notifications every hour of the day, and with constant connection comes the constant demand to keep working, keep doing, keep seeking more.
Much of the modern world, deliberately or otherwise, induces a quasi-permanent state of insatiable desire. Whenever you think you are fulfilled, something new comes along and stokes the flames once again. This state of constant rushing about to do things and get things leaves people exhausted, sick and unsatisfied. With so much activity, and brains entrained to keep acting, there is no space to breathe, to recharge, to remember.
In a world that demands constant activity, learn to be still.
But stillness is not the destination. A statue is still, but it is not alive. A man can stand in an empty room and stare blankly at the walls all day, but he’s more likely to be insane or addled than self-realised. Strive for mindfulness. A total acceptance of everything around you, with your mind completely engaged in the present. Yet to achieve mindfulness, first understand stillness.
Meditate Every Day
Every day you are becoming your tomorrow. What you do now, in this moment, influences what you will do next. Do something enough times and it becomes a habit. If you are habituated to seek sensory pleasures, to seek more work to do, to keep moving, your mind will fixate on opportunities to do so. If you are habituated to be mindful, to be receptive of everything around you, to appreciate the present exactly as it is, your mind will free itself to be one with the moment.
Earlier I’ve written about taking back your mind. Now we take things to the next level.
Meditate in the morning. After you wake up, meditate. What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. You don’t want to be irritated, distracted with emails and thoughts and the latest media scandal, or otherwise emotionally upset. There is always time for that later. You want to be calm and focused. Find it through meditation.
Find a quiet spot, sit or stand, breathe, and relax. Pay attention to your body. Does something ache? Is your back bent and your head hunched forward? Is there tension in your muscles? Are you fidgeting?
Let your body go completely liquid. Perfectly at ease, perfectly relaxed, yet perfectly unified. The old adage is to be like water. In Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power, Peter Ralston explains how to achieve this state when standing upright. Rest your weight in the center of your soles, pressing down into the earth. Align your knees, hips, torso, spine, shoulders and neck so that each successive limb or joint is stacked upon the one below it. Imagine that there a thousand-pound weight hanging between your legs, and stand so that the weight won’t pull you into the ground. Think of it like stacking a series of ever-smaller plates one atop the other. If you need help, press your back and the back of your skull against a wall, and maintain that posture.
Completely, consciously and totally relax every muscle from your toes to your neck. It may feel wrong, especially for people who unconsciously carry tension in their bodies all day long, but it is worth it. Your pelvis and shoulders may feel unnaturally wobbly, limp or useless. That is perfectly natural. The key is to remain completely balanced. If you are balanced in a neutral position, able to maintain your posture without swaying back and forth, you are doing it right.
Adapting these principles to a seated position is relatively simple. Sit upright, soles flat on the floor, legs relaxed. Your weight should be focused on your coccyx, directed into the floor. As with the thousand-pound weight analogy, sit so that the weight won’t pull you down. Should you try more advanced position like the half-lotus or full lotus, always keep your back straight and your body loose.
You probably won’t get this right the first time around. Or even the first hundred times. That’s okay. The key is to keep at it until you do get it right (though engaging a coach or therapist to check out your posture won’t hurt). When your body is aligned and loose and free, so too is your mind. Take your posture–seated or standing–and begin.
Clear your mind. Whatever it is you may be thinking, let it go. Simply cease paying attention to that stream of thought, and pay attention to a complete silence. Let this silence engulf you. In that silence, take in everything around you. The feel of your clothes, the temperature of the air, the rustling of leaves in a breeze, the gentle light of the morning sun. Drink in the moment.
Don’t force it. This is not a state of work. This is a state of rest. You know how to let your body rest; simply let the entirety of your being enter a state of repose. And should you find your mind distracted by a random thought or some strange sensory input, simply let it go and return to the state of stillness.
Yin and Yang
Stillness is the stepping stone to mindfulness. Once you are familiar with the whole body sensation of mindfulness when you are still, apply mindfulness in motion.
When speaking to someone, grasp his body language, tone of voice, gaze, tone, content of speech, assumptions, emotional state and implied meanings. When walking in the wider world, study the environment, people, ongoing events, traffic flow, weather, geography, your posture, physical sensations, weight distribution, fatigue, pain. When working, let your mind be completely absorbed in it and allow nothing to disturb your state of being. Be completely in the present, exactly as you were when you were meditating in stillness.
Mindfulness is a state of being. Of receiving and parsing all the information around you, acting in the most relaxed, calm and efficient manner, and appreciating the entirety of Creation. By moving every day you become healthier and learn to be disciplined, creative and efficient; by combining motion with mindfulness you eliminate distractions, receiving useful information, and seeking the most fluid way of doing things.
Achieve synthesis of action and non-action, decisiveness and thoughtfulness, yang and yin. Be as immovable as earth, as free as the air, as focused as fire, and as mutable as water. Balance these traits to suit your current situation.
When apprehending something new, approach it with complete openness and curiosity, seeking to understand everything about it. When acting upon it, do so with complete resolution. If you encounter an obstacle your first thought may be to blast through it. Seek instead a way to flow around it and reserve your energy for powering to your goals; if there isn’t one, identify the path of least resistance and blast through. When faced with a thousand and one things to do, root your mind in place, identify what must be done, and act with complete calmness and pinpoint focus. At the gym, relentlessly engage mind and body. Seek the most efficient and effective ways of working your muscles, preventing injury and enhancing performance.
Always remain mindful of your actions. When you find yourself straying, return to that state of stillness and presence.
Be still every day to achieve mindfulness. Then leave stillness behind and be mindful in what you do.
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