We all know that we live hectic lives that often go by so fast that we find it hard to even find time for ourselves let alone others. Like ants in a nest or rats in a maze we move through the world at infinite speed, pushing our minds and bodies through the day. When was the last time we just decided to stop? Like, really stop.
As babies we learn how to grasp things, how to stand up and eventually how to walk. As our confidence grows we move around from place to place and our ungainly walk gradually turns into an ungainly run. By the time our ungainly run has turned into a dangerous run our parents start telling us “Stay Still”; and we learn to be still (mainly for our own safety!). But we learn to be still physically and not mentally. As we stand there like frozen statues our minds continue to operate at 100mph. The education most of us receive today links stillness to exactly that; the lack of any bodily movement. So we stand there…and we don’t enjoy the stillness at all. In fact, we can’t wait to move move move! Stillness becomes boring, and our stimulated minds need more and more stimulation.
By the time we become adults an argument could be made that we have no idea how to be still at all. If anything, the pace of life has increased as we try to cram more and more into our days. When we find stillness (in the beauty of a lake or the richness of a starry night) we have the tendency to move on and do do do. Yes, we acknowledge it. But when was the last time we truly stayed with the experience?
You can imagine the conversation you might have with your partner that night: “What did you do today honey?”…”Er..I spent the day staring at the fish in the pond”. Do that too much and your partner will probably be thinking that you need mental help. Funny thing is, the stillness you find in the pond is mental health. True mindfulness (becoming one with your experience) makes the mind alert. We are attentive to the pond and the fish amidst all the demands of the outside world. We apply the brakes and let the world slow down. By slowing down we become less impetuous in thought, speech and action. There is an old Chinese proverb that states “There is nothing more glorious than keeping still”.
Have you ever tried just stopping in a crowd? I mean, really stopping? There you are, at full tilt, going wherever you are meant to be going and then bang! Stop! And then observe without judgement. Just watch, hear and feel the world go by. Yes, you’ll get a few stares (mostly people wandering why someone is just standing still!) but let them stare. And smile. Smile at a few strangers. Make the world a better place by just smiling. And I don’t mean that kind of sinister grin that we sometimes make when we fake smile. I mean really smile. Smile from within. Be stillness in the midst of movement and think “I’m still here”.
“He who keeps still and knows where to stop will not meet danger.” — Tao Te Ching, Chapter 44