Embracing the Two Pillars: Silence & Stillness
Driving home from the hospital one evening in April, my cousin asked me in a mildly suggestive tone if I would be taking the summer off. My father had just survived his third heart attack in nine months. My answer was very quick and the decision was made without any conscious thought. Lacking any censorship, I spontaneously replied, “I guess so. Yes. I will take the time off.” My cousin wisely intuited – before I did – that I would soon need to seek the balance that I value so much in my life.
Chitta vritti nirodha “Stilling the fluctuations of consciousness” Yoga Sutra I.2
If I am to teach yoga with integrity, I have to implement the teachings in my life. Yogis are committed to consciously and regularly harmonizing their nervous systems. So I packed up, and headed north, longing for moments of silence and stillness. Arriving at the lake, I was as excited as a child opening up birthday presents. Home again, in the family cottage of my childhood. Here, the prana, or life force from the lake and the sky is intense. The changing light, the fresh air, the beavers and Canadian geese… this is truly abundance. Having chosen to disconnect from the usual bombardment of technology in order to reconnect, music plays occasionally but the television and computer remain off almost all of the time. The rhythm of the days is slow. Most importantly, in those special moments of silence and stillness, I feel peace, contentment and joy.
Each day as I kayak, and practise my yoga, I surrender to stillness. The many lessons of almost three decades of yoga studies arise in my awareness. In those perfect moments of unity between my body, mind and emotions, I feel my connection to the Divine spirit, and gratitude for the understanding that all that is really needed is found within. Objects may be beautiful and we do derive pleasure from them but to seek anything more from those sources is to miss the truth. For example, an old dining room table has recently been passed on to us. It has been interesting to observe others feedback (and even judgment) over our decision to leave the table uncovered in order to enjoy the luster of the wood and to appreciate the inlaid handwork. For some, the desire to protect the table for the future takes precedence over appreciating it in the present moment. Experiencing an open heart, appreciating beauty and creativity, living simply, and accessing and sharing all the love that is within, is what creates lasting fulfillment.
Absorbing the silence of the lake, the stilling of the fluctuations of my mind begins to unfold and to reign over the usual distractions. I begin to achieve inner stillness. I feel calm. These changes occur whether I am kayaking, meditating, or practicing yoga. Yesterday, I observed the same gradual relaxation in my son as I guided him through a yoga practise. The sun was soon to set, and the lake was quiet. We were on the deck. His first pose was a relaxation one, and as soon as he lay down on the mat and saw where he was, he liked it. In one of the final poses, he was lying perpendicular to the stairs, and right at the edge of them. He had a blanket roller under his neck and his head dangled freely, resting very lightly on a step. His view was inverted, his perspective changed, and he spoke of his pleasure. The time spent together was really lovely. He said “thank you” at the end of the practise; yet the gratitude was mine, and I felt incredibly blessed.
Silence. Stillness. These are magic words and they are my path to tranquility, harmony and balance. At most times they are a challenge to find for they are elusive. When found, they can be difficult to stay with or to experience. When I recognize that I need to step back, to honour the gift of life that I have been given, and to reconnect with all that is important, I pursue experiences that can provide me with both silence and stillness. In my pursuit of balance and well-being, silence and stillness are the two pillars.
Temmi Ungerman Sears
“Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen, and absorb.” – Pythagorus