Connecting to Stillness

by Laura K. Secor

Hello my friends,

It is snowing.  Because it is January in New England, this makes perfect sense.  My brother lives in Hawaii, where every day is 72 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  Isn’t that strange?  Sometimes I get on a plane in February and go from New England snow to the tropics of the Pacific Ocean.  That first moment of stepping off the plane and smelling the salt air, feeling its softness on my skin as I peel off my winter layers, always disorients me.  

But this year, it’s snow all winter for me.  Maybe also for you.  I am snug inside my house, watching the white come down in fat little specks, and enjoying the miracle of indoor heating.  But every day this winter I’ve read a small reflection written by Rolf Gates, and it’s been like encountering that soft, warm ocean breeze.  His second book is called Meditations on Intention and Being, a mash-up of yoga and Buddhism, which features a short reflection for each day of the year.   Maybe because it starts with him waking to the breezes of the Pacific Ocean, I felt welcomed into this book from Day One.  

Here, I am giving you the entry for days two, three and four.  I have to admit, they are a little rich.  He exudes delight, and I’m not sure I’ve ever found meditation quite so delightful as he does.  But I read this as an aspiration.  I will keep trying meditation, here and there, and maybe the delight will creep up on me.  I wonder if you have tried meditation, and whether it has ever felt to you as amazingly beautiful as it does to Rolf.

Once I have taken my seat, I begin the process of letting go.  The momentum that got me to my seat is no longer required in the way that walking is no longer required once you have arrived at your destination.  Taking my seat is a shift from thinking to feeling.  The rest of my meditation practice is a continuation of that process.  The first thing I feel into is my body and the fact that I can be consciously aware of it without commentary.  I spend time in the mystery of knowing that I am sitting when I am sitting.  My body, and my awareness of it, brings me into direct contact with the ordinary nature of the miraculous.  I am living, embodied awareness, within and expressing an eternal moment the way a wave is within and expresses the ocean.  At the heart of this dynamic experience is an effortless stillness that feels like home to me.

Connecting to stillness is like connecting to silence.  We come to see that stillness and silence form the backdrop of our lives and that everything else is just passing through.  Sounds come and go, sensations come and go, thoughts, emotions, all of them traveling through stillness and silence like fish moving through an eternal ocean or weather traveling across an eternal sky.  As I begin my meditation, my body carries with it the experience of stillness and my mind becomes silent.  I become the sky that holds the weather.  Resting in the felt experience of my body, I am able to give my full attention to the weather of my life, to care for what is coming and going with wisdom and compassion, to love what is just passing through.

Sound travels through silence in patterns we call rhythm.  Sensation travels through awareness in rhythms.  Movements arise and pass rhythmically.  A funny joke, a well-taught yoga class, the sound of anger, the pitch of joy, the rocking of a baby to sleep – all of it is rhythm.  It is said that everything in the physical universe is information vibrating at different rhythms; the study of life amounts to the study of rhythm.  Time spent in silence and stillness reveals this to be true.  There is the eternal moment and there are the rhythms it holds like the sky holding weather.  The first rhythm I was taught to feel into, or experience, was the rhythm of the breath.  As I did so I discovered life’s heartbeat.  Within the rhythm of my breathing is the rhythm of all the breaths and all the heartbeats.  Within the rhythm of my breathing lies the secret that I am every being and every being is me.