Read the write-up below or hear the recording here.
When the mind is disturbed, like choppy waters, we don’t have the opportunity to observe what’s going on.
The challenges that this practice gives us will be apparent to some of you now, that have been coming for a while. But those new to meditation, who haven’t stepped outside the process of the mind and seen what is going on, you won’t necessarily appreciate the importance of stillness.
This modern world of ours seems to be encouraging us to take on more activity and do more “stuff” all the time. It is as if we are led to believe that still time is dead time. So, I encourage you to explore stillness. To experience its benefits and also experience how much stillness you experience during your day.
What pulls you away from stillness in to action. Clearly we need to do our jobs, look after our people and undertake daily chores. But what do we mean by stillness here? What is moving and what is still?
In Tai Chi, we study the dichotomy of Stillness in Action and Action in Stillness. We discover through the practice how each tiny move is created out of seven or eight different principles, all of which are driven by the mind. These are all going on, continuously, through the flow of the form. If we didn’t have a sense of stillness about us, we wouldn’t be able to feel and understand the beauty of how these principles are interacting and contributing to our movement. Even a simple arm movement, we discover, is not driven by the arm. We appreciate and feel how the mind moves first. Then the body as an integrated whole starts to move in response to the mind and finally the arm moves.
But surely we are talking about stillness here? Why do we seem to be focusing on movement?
So, without movement, stillness would never exist. The dichotomy is needed to appreciate it. Without movement, there is no life and without life there is nothing to be still. We are now touching the boundaries of what we are talking about here and where this is heading.
Have you ever been deep in a forest? Surrounded by that beautiful hushed silence and suddenly a bird sings. Somehow, the birdsong deepens the silence, increasing its wonderful quality. This is what we are talking about here. Stillness, requires movement within it. But it is the right kind of movement. So when we watch an experienced Tai Chi practitioner move, we can sense the stillness despite the fact that they are moving. Where does this come from? From Mind.
This is what we need to find in our own minds and in our meditation practice. What does all this mean? It means our minds don’t have to be silent of thoughts. But they are just not part of our attention. They are like the background hush of the wind or the singing of the bird, adding to the silence.
We drive the stillness by using our breath.