Finding stillness and more tales from India
Are you listening? Do you hear the stillness?
In England we are in the middle of winter, normally a yin time of retreat and renewal, except we are also in lockdown, again. In this enforced stillness, you could be forgiven for your increasing levels of anxiety and stress at these restrictions. We saw out the end of 2020 with a rather lesser bang, and there appears to be little choice now except to surrender and stay put.
As we descend into this time, we have a chance to stop and observe ourselves. How often do we really stop in this way, to look at ourselves and our surroundings? Every movement, action and sound is intensified in this stillness. Everything takes on a richer, more lucid quality as we see how we really are, how we move and how we act. I remind myself of this as I have been living with a teenager thwarted from his normal activities. Certainly if you are at home with kids, the double test is to find a new stillness and calm within.
In the west we are familiar with busyness, commitments, to-do lists and schedules. It is our Normal. Travel can take us away from our everyday familiarity to make us think. Given it's a bit restricted right now, I would like to share a brief travel memory that has remained with me ever since.
I was on a trip to India to study yoga at an ashram, and flew into Bombay. At this point I had been to India many times, and was “prepared” for the noise, traffic, mayhem and general madness that is a big Indian city. After landing and getting my luggage, I took a bus into the centre. As I got off the bus and got orientated, I happened to catch some pairs of eyes calming surveying me.
On other side of the big road, past all the cars, rickshaws, motorbikes and buses I could see a small teashop open. In this teashop was a group of men, sitting having their tea. There was nothing special about this teashop, if anything it was a bit ramshackle and run down, with faded, peeling wood painted in a typical bright blue. What struck me was the utter stillness that pervaded that little tea shop, even from my distant vantage point. I could literally feel the energy of their bodies, swimming in a sea of inner calm reaching me. I could also hear their inner silence beneath the din of traffic, horns and people around me. That image has stayed with me because I knew at that moment I had definitely landed onto foreign shores.
Finding Stillness In ‘Non-Action’
We might not need to fight through rush hour to find stillness right now, but we might still need to negotiate our own busy mind. By cultivating an awareness of our body mind, a 'body mindfulness’, we can start to release some of our tension.
The next time you are in a difficult situation, notice without judgement or reaction how eg your breath gets more laboured, your stomach tightens or your jaw gets tense. At the same time, become a passive observer, a fly on the wall to yourself, and in doing so start to recognise certain personal traits and tendencies. You may also start to notice other bodily sensations that are not directly connected to the issue, as your self-perception starts to expand. By becoming more aware and open to the other sensations in your body, you may find you can get a more grounded, holistic perspective.
As we recognise our physical reactions, and become receptive to them, we may become more open to the challenging situations in question. By noticing the physical sensations as they arise and by naming them, it is almost as if we can then release them, and our bodies can soften. Thus as we become more receptive, we may become more calm.
This is all great in theory of course, but being utterly present in the moment – in every cell of your being - is a true Art in stillness - a true listening meditation. And if you do not know where to begin, begin with listening to your breath.
Finding Stillness In Movement
We can also find inner stillness when we’re moving, and for many of us it might prove easier. Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelm, when we have too much emotion bubbling under the surface, it is helpful to move our bodies and get a whole new perspective.
If we begin to move, listen to our bodies and let it’s voice be heard, this movement may evolve into a dance. Our bodies might create visual representations or symbolic structures of our thoughts and feelings.
(nb. this can be a place of vulnerability, and in order for true, free expression to take place, you need to feel you are in a safe place to do so, as our feelings might not always look very pretty. )
By making our feelings more tangible through our bodies, we give them an external voice. We are seen and heard on a new level, as if you can almost touch and feel your feelings.
In doing so, the emotional charge of them may dissipate. We allow the emotion to rear its tumultuous head and then…release it. In a sense we are shedding layer by layer. We might originally have moved from pain, stiffness or feelings of agitation in the body. When we listen to our bodies, and move in ways to release these tensions, we may find that gradually we can also shed our frustrations, anger or despair.
Conversely, we may feel somewhat numbed by recent events, helpless, frozen in fear or confusion, and these emotions are ‘trapped’ within our bodies. Through moving and dance we can let these emotions travel through and find expression for them and an outlet.
One student has described on her movement experience:
‘It does seem to me that you can transmute through movement and through using the body in new ways, you can find relief and answers to a lot of things - that idea of not having to push away the suffering, but going into yourself to release’
However troubled we may feel, even in the midst of chaos, it is possible to find some calm, stillness and inner peace. If we move and dance, we may even find joy as we stay hopeful that we are in fact, entering into a new more prosperous and healthy 2021. A new dance of hope.
Helene Su, www.niiodance.com - remembering who you are
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