How much stillness do you have in your life? Stillness is defined as “a calm, quiet, motionless state.” When we achieve a state stillness, we have calmed the waters of the internal self. We’ve, at least momentarily, escaped the noise that sometimes clouds our heads and become fully immersed in the present moment.
In the book Stillness is The Key (featured in a previous column), the author Ryan Holiday reminds us that we are at our best when we can achieve this level of inner quiet. With stillness:
- We can view the world with greater empathy and understanding
- We think more clearly and make smarter decisions
- We can more easily sort out good choices from bad ones
- We are at peace because our minds and heart are at peace
Stillness sounds wonderful—but how do you get there?
One way to cultivate this inner stillness is through a regular meditation practice. I’ve written about different meditation techniques in the past, but more recently find myself leaning on meditation apps like Headspace and Waking Up to walk me through a daily 10-minute session.
Another interesting method comes from Richard Rohr’s weekly Meditation newsletter, where the Franciscan religious and spiritual author recently talked about how he achieves stillness. Rohr reports that each day at his Center for Action and Contemplation, they begin their morning by sitting and repeating a line from Psalm 46:10 of the Bible:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
But his group repeats this passage, each time in a slightly different way. He explains that “with each repetition, we drop a word from the verse until we finally say only “Be.” The practice reads like this:
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
The group then “enters the silence together.” For Rohr, it serves as a reminder that no matter how busy our days may be, each day “we are called to be, and be still, before God.” This practice seems to have an amazing calming effect; try reading the passage above for yourself.
The popular author and teacher Eckhart Tolle offers this additional insight on stillness:
Silence is helpful, but you don’t need it in order to find stillness. Even when there is noise, you can be aware of the stillness underneath the noise, of the space in which the noise arises. That is the inner space of pure awareness, consciousness itself.
Tolle advises us to bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal. “Do not think about it, but simply perceive it. Hold it in your awareness. Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You too come to a place of rest deep within yourself.”
In the book Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, Tolle distilled the key thoughts from his best-selling book The Power of Now into a series of short chapters. I identified what I believe are the most important passages from that book and edited them into a series of bullet points. What remains is the essence of Tolle’s teachings on how being still can help us realize “the power of being in the now.”
Eckhart Tolle On Stillness
When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.
Whenever there is some silence around you—listen to it. Pay attention to it. Listening to silence awakens the dimension of silence within yourself, because it is only through stillness that you can be aware of silence.
Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.
When you look at a tree and perceive its stillness, you become still yourself. You connect with it at a very deep level. You feel a oneness with whatever you perceive in and through stillness.
Silence is helpful, but you don’t need it in order to find stillness. Even when there is noise, you can be aware of the stillness underneath the noise, of the space in which the noise arises.
Pay attention to the gap—the gap between two thoughts, the brief silence between words in a conversation, the gap between the in-breath and out-breath.
Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed.
Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Stillness directs your words and your actions.