I listened to a lecture by Thich Nhat Hanh some time back. He talked about being ‘water reflecting’ when we meditate. He described how when there is activity in a lake, the ripples make it hard to see the reflection of the moon. Only when there is stillness is there clarity.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to be in a meditative state to enjoy the benefits of clear thought. To me, the discipline of Stillness means setting aside an unbroken chunk of time where I put everything down- physically and mentally. I put down my work, and let go of whatever I’m processing in my conscious mind. Whatever it is that I find in there, beneath what was foremost in my consciousness, I acknowledge it and relinquish it for the time being.
By letting go of everything that’s going on inside and outside of me, I become free from the thoughts that bind me to the moment, and to my Self. I also become free of the thoughts and feelings that were undercurrents in my mind, pulling me this way and that without my conscious awareness of it.
Stillness is the practice of achieving a starting point for clear thinking. It doesn’t mean forgetting what was on my mind. If anything, as I relinquish the thoughts and feelings beneath the surface of my conscious processes, I become more aware of what’s really going on with me, and what I’ll need to process later.
After relinquishing the need to work on or process anything in the moment, I am ready for whatever one thing I need to attend to. I am ready to meditate. I am ready to study. I am ready to contemplate. Whatever I do after I have achieved stillness, it will be with a clear mind. I will be able to take it all in, without the mental chatter, and as a fully aware person.
Even beyond my own needs, Stillness allows me to be fully present for other people. It’s like putting down my smart phone when someone is speaking with me. There are fewer distractions in my mind keeping from really hearing them and attending to their needs. It is as easy as taking a few minutes to disengage from an activity before sitting down to talk with someone. Or letting someone get my voicemail so I have a minute before calling them back.
Sometimes I don’t realize how much is going on upstairs until I pause for a moment before making a decision. When my thoughts or feelings are at all confused on a matter at hand, I know I need to reset and get back to the starting point of a free mind before I make any decisions. If I don’t practice pausing, it’s easy to be swept along by everything that’s going on beneath the surface of my conscious thoughts. In the past, in my busy life, often times everything I saw and decided was distorted, passing through so much mental chatter, through whatever I was working on, my preconceptions, subtle feelings…
Every day I try to practice stillness. It has helped me to become more aware of myself, what’s going on inside me and around me, and it has helped me to be ready for whatever comes next in my day.