The Coexistence of Stillness and Motion
There is a role for inner stillness in times of outer motions.
Posted Sep 19, 2018
Over the past two years, I have often felt like an actress in a low-budget sci-fi movie. My role is an ordinary human in a not-so-ordinary situation. In a 1940’s version of a spacesuit, I cling to a mega-size asteroid as it careens toward Earth. The asteroid sheds pieces of itself as it deflects cosmic forces and angrily persists on its path of global destruction. My task is to shift my relatively miniscule weight to make the asteroid veer toward empty space. Though desperate to astro-tweet a warning, I can’t remember the password for my communicator.
In this movie, nothing makes common sense. Because there isn’t even the first draft of a script, I must adapt my actions to unpredictable turbulence. The relentless motion erratically alters my e-motions. It is exhausting to maintain balance. No wonder I shout into my space helmet: What on Earth is happening!
What happened on Earth is that the real me made a decision. I decided to explore stillness as an antidote for a plethora of motions—hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, mass migrations, political turmoil and such. I chose to leave my fake role in outer space and experience my own authentic inner space.
This morning I meditated outside in the predawn light. As I calmed myself with steady breathing and focused awareness in my heart, a question arose naturally: Can I sustain an inner state of stillness as I walk? Restated paradoxically, could I move and be still simultaneously?
As I remained in my heart for an answer, I envisioned an expansive empty space appearing before me. Like a gargantuan bubble inside an ocean, it seemed to have invisible edges somewhere, perhaps to ward off intrusions. My awareness was in the space, but I saw no forms. The space was filled only with an extraordinary stillness. I felt as a participant within it, yet there was nothing to do, only to be. I simply observed.
At first, my observations yielded nothing but a subtle anticipation of something awaiting birth. A mystery was longing to arise within that space, to be created into form. There was no fear of anything monstrous. What finally appeared was more of an urge than any specific object.
In recent times, I have experienced bouts of inner conflict due to current national and global events. There seems to be such intense motions pulling my attention in random, nonsensical directions. I have sought ways to keep a relaxed, nonjudgmental perspective, but it has been very difficult to watch what I deeply value be challenged. I have an urgent drive to discover what I can personally contribute toward clarity and cooperation in these times. In the stillness of my meditation, the urge in that moment was to walk. I did so in my cherished natural surroundings.
I walked with the sense of stillness of empty space before my open eyes. As I moved, the space filled and emptied with the real forms of trees, rocks, birds, my dog, dry grass, hillsides, and sky. Although I had seen them for years, it was as if they were brand new, wondrous, and sources of profound meaning. Occasionally I stopped to allow the experience to flow from scene to scene. I watched a hummingbird fly from flower to flower as it drank. I was unusually aware of the motion of patches of clouds and the subtle movements of individual leaves in the tender breeze. I was able to be both still and walk, to be both still and observe motion. Stillness and motion coexisted with clarity in that harmonious space.
I have shredded the asteroid script. I want to contribute to a new script for the story of Earth, an evolving script that arises from insights learned from states of inner stillness even in the presence of troubling motions. It will take practice and commitment, but I believe in the possibility that stillness can teach me ways of becoming a better human. In inner stillness I believe I can better identify a shared set of core values, better expand my open-mindedness and open-heartedness, better listen without prejudice but with discernment, and more. If I can do this within my individual self, maybe more of my interactions will move myself and others away from divisive actions. If I can grow in compassion and wisdom, maybe my humble presence will have a positive influence on our inclusive collective space.
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May we humans leave our spacesuits, come back to Earth, and discover our hearts’ shared space.