It is unfortunate that the perception of stillness, and the quiet that results from daily devotionals such as meditation and Taiji, is one of passivity and bliss. While this reads well in poems, and plays well in movies, it is neither the purpose nor the consequence of stillness cultivation.
Long, slow, deep breaths . . . . each one bringing us back into the present moment. A thought enters, we are briefly tempted, but the breath brings us back. If only we could live our entire life in that present moment awareness . . . .
I write for a living, or at least for part of it. In my seminars and talks, I use writing analogy to illustrate this notion.
Each moment arrives as a blank piece of parchment. I reach for my quill and ink, and write a line of my life?s poetry on that parchment, and then set it aside, because the next blank parchment is about to arrive. And so on with each new parchment, and each new line of poetry.
In Chapter 20 of the Tao Te Qing, Laozi says : ?Stop thinking, and solve all your problems. What is the difference between yes and no??
I say . . . if it is yes, okay; if it is no, okay. When you see things as they truly are, when you see the universe as it truly is, neither good nor bad, but simply as it is, you can live your life in harmony with everything.
When you insist on ?yes? or ?no,? when you make things either good or bad, that parchment piece is not blank. Your predisposition, your bias, has filled it, and there is no room on it for your next line. You have thought too much, as Laozi might say; you are not seeing the universe simply as it is, others might say.
When we meditate, we practice present moment awareness. We are sitting still, doing nothing . . . just being, rather than trying to become. We train our mind to be present, letting thoughts fall off, dissolve. After all, they were only thoughts, and they existed no where else in the universe except in our mind at that moment.
In that present moment awareness, we see everything as it is, with neither attachment nor judgment, and we are nimble enough to respond in whatever way is required of us in that moment. Correct actions arise of their own, and having acted, we move to the next moment.
This is neither passivity nor bliss. It is a life fully engaged with all the rest of life around us.
If you are beginning a meditation practice, expect nothing. There are no sudden bright lights, no mysterious voice, no epiphany. The purpose of meditation is to meditate . . . . to focus attention on your breath, to practice present moment awareness.
But, be careful not to leave this on your cushion. Carry it with you. Live your life in that awareness. And when you find an unwanted thought enter your mind, return to your breath. In doing so, let it bring you back to the moment.
Neither passive nor blissful, but real, fully engaged. And when the next piece of parchment arrives, write that next line of your life?s poem well and authentically.
This is the true benefit of stillness. This is why we live our daily life of meditation, qigong and taiji . . . the skills we use to cultivate it.