Being Still (written 2009)
“Be still and know that I am God”. This is a biblical quotation I see many places. I'm sorry I have not memorized its verse location. I am reading it now in a non-fiction book by the novelist Sue Monk Kidd. Here she looks at it as an injunction to wait. Move neither forward nor back. Be still. I think of the Quaker way to “pray always” and the Buddhist practice path I am on myself...to be here, now. Present. Mindful. This is like this.
Last night I was weary and exhausted. Dropping one of my medications because of potential long term side effects and here I am: nauseous, stomach pain, back pain, fatigue. So, as illness does, this slowed me down. I drift. And I began to reflect again, as I need to, on the “doing” that fills so much of my life. I want to learn to be and not to do so much. To be still. In that stillness I find peace. Serenity. Connection. Forgiveness. Tolerance. Compassion. And once more I know why these are so elusive in a world wound up and doing. Going always. Addicted to movement and progress.
Change comes without our pushing. And when we're still we move with it, a petal on the wave, not a motorboat lurching and screaming and beating against the wind and water, smothering sound, polluting water and air. There is a deep yearning in me for stillness. Yet I am afraid of what sometimes seems a tearing away from this life. Looking to force changes. I am beginning to see that being still here, in this life, is what I should allow. Then drift on the wave of change and see what comes. It is not knowing God as I was taught about Him as a child, but touching the mystery inside and outside, encompassing life. Some call it God. Why not? Language and labels are superimposed on what is felt, what is known before it is named. Just be still.
See the fears. In the mirror these days I see the puffy eyelids that always indicate I am tired...often that I'm ill. This is like this. Investigate the body, the feelings. Do not get caught up in concepts and analysis and circles of thinking. For awhile I seem to build a bridge over fear, then I feel the boards shifting and I look down into widening spaces. I have to be careful how I place my feet.
Stillpoint. What does this mean exactly? I find it on the cushion most days. Sometimes at odd moments during the day triggered by a bird song, the light through the trees, the spangle of stars across the clear black sky, even the way a dog snuggles into my neck or the smell of cut grass. A moment that centers and pulls both inward and outward and there it is...the stillpoint.
Exploring not just illness, and always the tangle of family, but the changes of mid-life. Loss of my parents. Both pain and freedom. No need to live to their expectations any longer nor to worry about their being wounded by my choices. Young children grown to the point that they (and I) need the letting go to begin. Stepping off the treadmill/away from the escalator and sitting back to let it be. “Wisdom,” Sue Monk Kidd says, “ is not a place to arrive at but a way of traveling.” OK.
“Do not waste time” is the closing line of the Zen Sandokai. But this does not mean to use every moment in getting things done. Rather, spend the moments, travel, wisely. Find my breath, touch a cold metal gate, see the glint of ice, feel a doggy nose in my bare palm, and know I do not need anything else.