The Surprising Benefits of Stillness
What is silence? The answer is seemingly simple: the absence of noise. Sometimes in the middle of the night, one might wake up and hear silence. The world is quiet.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the art of attention and awareness. It lives in the present moment, which is the only moment we have. It is a form of nonjudgmental, relaxed awareness. When we are mindful, we are paying attention on purpose to the contents of this moment. We are noticing feelings and sensations. We are taking in the details of our external environment as well as the emotional and mental currents flowing within us. It also means cultivating a relaxed acceptance of what is. We learn to allow what happens to just “be” and observe it with compassion. We are witnessing rather than resisting, controlling or fixing.
Sounds easy? Not at all. Mindfulness takes tremendous practice since we all are, to various degrees, anxious and reactive. We tend to live in the past, or in the future, going back and forth from one to the other in an effort, mostly unconscious, to manipulate life and outsmart it.Just being in the present moment feels very open and vulnerable. Most of us are too restless to fully relax into the moment. As a result, we end up being absent in our own life, a guest rather than the host.
Over the next 3 weeks, I will be going over the positive impact that 5 minutes of mindfulness, stillness, and meditation can have on our lives. Isn’t it interesting that we forget that we are here in this life temporarily? We might not be here tomorrow. Our moments are precious, but we’re not living them fully. We are doing things automatically, half asleep, taking life for granted. Mindfulness reduces stress and enhances our ability to enjoy and appreciate life. It opens our hearts and minds to an expanded experience of life, and relaxes our tendency to contract away from what is.
Many books have been written about mindfulness. Many lectures and discussions have been held. None will truly convey to you the actual experience. Much like words cannot fully describe the experience of oneness, which is beyond words or thoughts, the experience of life through mindfulness is a personal one to be discovered and felt through practice.
Have you ever observed someone or something in a neutral way, without judging, rejecting, or analyzing but simply accepting? No commentary, interpretations, or expectations. If you did, then you know what witnessing is. The experience of witnessing is rare unless practiced diligently.
Our monkey mind is part of our Defensive Self and is relentlessly commenting on everything we come in contact with. We file things in drawers according to our perceptions and categories. We have the “good” drawers and the “bad” ones; there we collect our likes and dislikes. While going through life, we are constantly hoarding emotions, ideas, information, and memories, putting them all in our overstuffed inner drawers. We are constantly bouncing between rejection and attachment.
We reject what we think is bad and put it in the bad drawers, and we get attached to what we judge as good. It’s as if we need to know, on a moment to moment basis, what to discard and what to cling to. This reactive way of being does not allow for observation, awareness, or witnessing.
When we are driven by a sense of survival steeped in duality and fear, our mind can feel like a zoo and life like a circus. However, our inner witness, the cosmic “I Am” within our consciousness (the essence of our Expanded Self ), is the real ringmaster of the circus, and it does not identify with the shifts of the body-mind, the various dramas, stories, and interpretations flowing through.
So by cultivating our witnessing ability, our perspective widens, our mind relaxes. Eventually the whole universe becomes our home, or to put it differently, the whole universe comes to live within our mind, and we can observe it peacefully, in a nonreactive way.