stillness, allowing, just being: “… Give up the search for something to happen and fall in love, fall intimately in love with the gift of presence in ‘what is.’ …” ~ Tony Parsons
“… Everything is grace. When we say yes to what is, we say yes to grace …” ~ Francis Lucille
Indeed … falling in love with what is … brings an endless gift … of grace! … and the natural outcome of such “falling” is deepening stillness which encourages more allowing of, or sinking into, what is … or just being … which is true meditation …
As Joan Tollifson suggests: “…when we stop looking for round-the-clock ecstasy, or for some ideal “empty mind,” there is the possibility to be alive to this moment, exactly as it actually is. …” in the chapter Meditation: The Joy of Nothing At All …
We started exploring this topic of Meditation in part 5 of our multi-part series on the 2022 edition of Joan’s book Awake in the Heartland: The Ecstasy of What Is (original edition 2003) … and …
Today, in this part 6, we continue that deep dive into meditation (the post title is ours and the excerpts are from the chapter: Meditation: The Joy of Nothing At All) …
… in Part 1, we set the stage for the series with the 2022 Preface and the first two sub-chapters – A Sea of Jewels and This Is It
… in Part 2, Joan posits that you are the present moment … via the sub-chapter of the same title … and goes further by asking if it is possible for us to find a boundary …
… in Part 3, Joan masterfully unpacks the illusion of separation by taking us on a deep dive into the question Who Am I? … in the sub-chapter of the same title …
… in Part 4, Joan dissects the elusive topic of illusion with a deep dive into the question Is The World Real? …
“… there is the possibility to be alive to this moment, exactly as it actually is …”
Our society is becoming ever more frantic and frenetic. Any moment of silence or idleness is instantly filled with sound and busyness. We flip restlessly through magazines, we channel surf, we surf the net, we have radios and TVs and stereos going every minute, we do as many things at once as we can. There is a kind of dread of emptiness or silence, and a compulsion to fill it up. Nature is too slow. We come to crave the over- stimulation of constant speed, noise and activity.
When we slow down and quiet down, we begin to tune into subtler realms of reality. We notice subtle shifts that wouldn’t be perceptible at high speed or full volume. We become more sensitive. It doesn’t mean you should never read a magazine or turn on the TV or go fast. But perhaps, if you’re interested, you can experiment with seeing what happens if you do nothing at all except be fully present where you actually are.
There are many moments in an ordinary busy day when nothing needs to be done, maybe just for a minute or half a minute. Instead of rushing to fill that space with something (some activity, some noise, some stimulation, some thought, some busy-ness), simply be still. Just breathe. Just listen. Just be.
Listen to the rain. Listen to the traffic. Not as a practice to get you somewhere, but simply to enjoy what is. Is it possible to be here now without trying for any result, without seeking any improvement? Can we put all our techniques and methods aside and simply be alive?
That doesn’t mean you are in a state of ecstasy all the time. There will always be a variety of passing experiences, sometimes including boredom and flatness. There will be hours spent doing your income tax and balancing your checkbook. There will be upset and confusion and irritation and pain. There will be fantasies. That’s the nature of life. But when we stop looking for round-the-clock ecstasy, or for some ideal “empty mind,” there is the possibility to be alive to this moment, exactly as it actually is.
Nothing fancy needs to happen. Nothing needs to disappear. Nothing needs to be attained. Slowly and instantaneously we grow more and more willing to simply be alive.
The Case for Stillness, Allowing, Just Being…
Sitting quietly, doing nothing is a lovely way to be, as often as it invites you. It is a refreshing and clarifying way to start and end the day. It doesn’t matter whether you sit on the floor or in an armchair, what posture you take, whether your eyes are open or closed. Experiment; try different possibilities. Enjoy the view out the window. Watch the birds and the clouds. Just be present. Instead of reading a book, or turning on the TV, or phoning up a friend, experiment with doing nothing at all. See what reveals itself. Again, this doesn’t mean that watching the clouds is spiritual and watching TV is not. It’s just a possibility.
Instead of trying to make something happen, be fully present to what actually is happening. Let everything be just as it is. Without trying in any way to manipulate or control your experience, simply hear the sounds of traffic, the hum of the refrigerator, the cheeping of birds, the laughter of children, the barking dog, the lawn mower, the snow blower, whatever is appearing right now. Feel the sensations in the body. Let go of any effort to do it right, to improve, or to have any particular kind of experience.
If anxiety, restlessness, or boredom should arise, let it arise without trying to control it or make it go away. Instead of telling stories about it, simply feel it in the body as pure sensation. Notice how, when you pay careful attention, sensations move and shift, dissolve and reappear. At the very core of these sensations, what do you find?
Observe how thought tries to formulate and understand, how it strategizes and looks for answers and solutions, how it tells stories and passes judgment, how it tries to work everything out mentally. Notice that thoughts are only thoughts. You don’t need to make them go away. Just see them for what they are. They seem believable, a reliable source of information. But are they?
Notice the thoughts coming and going. Feel the body. Hear the traffic. Nothing more, nothing less. If thought pops up and says, “There has to be more to life than this,” just notice that this is a thought.
You don’t have to “do” all of this perfectly or correctly. You don’t have to achieve anything or turn into a better person. Just allow everything to be as it is. Just listen. I don’t mean to suggest that you have to “be aware” all the time, as in a mindfulness practice that never lapses. That is a fantasy. There is no you to do any such thing. Rather, notice that awareness, by its very nature, includes and allows everything. This total acceptance is always, already the case. True meditation, true prayer, true devotion, true satsang is simply what is, as it is.
The mind endlessly says, “Yes, but,” and “So what?” and “What’s next?” and “What if?” The mind can’t find anything of substance in this that is being pointed to. It’s just nothing! But if you’re reading this book, chances are you’ve come to suspect that “nothing” is worth exploring. When we are listening deeply, stillness arises naturally on its own, and for awhile, we may be completely motionless. Stillness allows for a subtlety and depth of attention. If you watch animals, you’ll see that they spend a great deal of time in absolute stillness. They’re alert. They don’t move at all.
There is something rich about physical stillness, not moving away from discomfort and upset. Typically, when we are upset or afraid, we squirm. We get restless. We try to escape. Stillness is about not escaping. It is about turning to face what we are running from and experiencing it fully. It’s especially interesting to sit quietly if you feel agitated, restless, irritated, depressed, or upset. Experiment; see what happens.
Many formal meditation practices have you sitting absolutely motionless for timed periods of fixed duration, often hour after hour, day after day. I did this kind of sitting for many years, and there was something powerful that I learned from it. I don’t regret having done it. But it was even more liberating when I finally dropped it.
I no longer recommend this kind of rigorous, forced practice, although if you are drawn to it, by all means do it. What you learn in sitting through these uncomfortable, restless, painful places translates into an ability to find peace at the center of the storm in daily life. But in my book you don’t need a timer or a schedule, and you don’t need to deliberately subject yourself to excruciating pain. Life will provide you with ample opportunities to face pain without creating them artificially. The body is not designed to sit absolutely immobile for hours and days on end. Stillness will arise naturally if you allow it into your life and make time for it. Maybe at times it does help to have some structure. If structure is needed, it will appear. But you don’t need to wear a hair shirt or sleep on a bed of nails in order to wake up. You’re not going anywhere. You’re here!
Be gentle with yourself. Allow this exploration to be pleasurable, not grueling. Not that life will always be pleasurable. It won’t. Unpleasant things will arise, and when they do, it’s an especially rich opportunity for stillness and attention. It’s eye opening to discover how much of the suffering in life is mind-generated, how much of it comes from resistance, how much of it is optional when the mechanism is clearly seen.
~ Joan Tollifson
Stay tuned for Joan’s … conclusion of this series with more excerpts from Meditation: The Joy of Nothing at All
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Tapping into what is … deepening that practice in our daily lives … naturally opens us to more compassion and more kindness towards our global human family … and in that spirit let us minimize (& hopefully dissolve) the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine … by helping in whatever way we can … and to that end here are some options:
2) Washington Post: Here’s how Americans can donate to help people in Ukraine.
3) Go Fund Me: How to Help: Donate to Ukraine Relief Efforts.
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We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then please do so …
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