The most basic and necessary spiritual practice is stilling the mind. Even a short practice of sitting each day and bringing your attention back to breath is as meaningful a practice as any. There are many paths to God, but underlying all of them is stillness of mind. This entails the development of attention both on and off the cushion. It is easier to begin this practice on the cushion so one can focus simply on that task.
When this practice accumulates force, miracles occur.
As a practitioner of meditation for 30 years in which I rarely miss a day of sitting, I can attest to these miracles. At this point, I can settle into a deep place of no thought and union with God within minutes. That presence and strength accompany me as I go about my day. Even at times of great duress in relationship or stressful circumstances, I am usually able to find the resources to resist reaction and to make incredible effort.
Everything in my life has been affected by this practice of stilling the mind.
I have overcome incredible obstacles that have kept me from loving. I am much more quick to forgive myself and others. I can find myself able to choose not speaking when my greatest urge is to state my opinion about something. I can resist the urge to be right. I can listen much more easily when it has never been my natural tendency.
If I can do this, so can anyone. It starts with this practice of stilling the mind even if at first it feels not at all possible. There must be many many days of feeling like one has failed; failed to still the mind, failed to break though, failed to see results, failed to not react and much more. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with my mind whirring at an insane pace wondering why I continue to try. I wondered if the mind was capable of utter stillness. I observed how associative thought would ride every wave that comes its way.
The secret is to keep trying and to keep failing. That is what builds up the strength.
Many of us experience this in exercise. We fail to achieve the right number of reps. We give up just before hitting our new distance. Our muscles ache and we just can’t do one more sit up. All of this failure still builds up the muscles.
A spiritual practice builds strength of the zen mind. One can then pray with the heart. One can act according to conscience more easily. One can resist speaking when it is best to do so. One can listen to God from deep within.
We cannot know this truly without stillness of mind.
If I have a tendency to want to be right, this practice of stilling the mind helps me to accept what someone else is saying even if I may think they are wrong.
If I have a tendency to want to put forth my two cents because it shows I know more, stillness of mind will stop me from saying anything.
When I feel that every particle in my body is reacting in pain or sorrow, I can remember that this too shall pass.
I can recognize the Ego’s power to convince me of my own self pity.
I can begin to have empathy where there was none. In so doing, I learn to not take things personally and to realize from whence someone else’s words are generated.
With stillness of mind, I can connect the past to the present in a vortex outside of the time space continuum; the place where true healing occurs.
I can bear the pain of difficult relationships in which I have staying power to learn instead of running away or cutting myself off emotionally or numbing myself in drugs, alcohol, or medication.
With stillness of mind, I can learn to accept myself and the mistakes I make, instead of adhering to the ridiculous standards of perfectionism my Ego creates.
I am able to wriggle free from being identified with my Ego’s ridiculous standards which allows me to beat myself up to the point of feeling hopeless, failure, or even suicidal.
It all starts with a practice which grows to a necessity which then evolves into living by conscience.
My stillness of mind is as necessary to me as my oxygen. It has saved my life. It has brought me close to people and I am truly grateful. Every time I stop, I am immediately connected with the Infinite Source of Wisdom in which I can surrender to love. I can bypass my need to figure things out for the future in that moment and sigh a sigh of relief that nothing is necessary at this sacred time except to be.
I push aside the wish to resolve matters or ask for more, and each time I do so, I am rewarded ten fold with a point of grace in which I am forgiven and I am loved.
As I sit and find my mind wanting to race, I remind myself that there is time for that later and for now I can simply keep bringing myself back to breath. Even if i fail to do this one hundred times in a meditation, it is a very good meditation. It is the effort that counts and beats not sitting because I think it isn’t working.
Over the years, as my discipline has created stillness, I use it as a resource when faced with the alluring desire to react. It strengthens my ability to let go. In fact, it is the only way I could have ever let go.
It guides me to know what is right in my heart.
If you are looking for methods to help you still your mind, I run an online live group course two times a year. The next one is coming up this fall. You can find out more here: Practical Awareness E-Course
Like what you are reading? sign up for my newsletter below!