The ancient masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it.
One can only describe them vaguely by their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Simple as uncarved wood.
Hollow like caves.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Amorphous, like muddy water.
But the muddiest water clears
as it is stilled.
And out of that stillness
He who keeps the Tao does not want to be full.
But precisely because he is never full,
he can remain like a hidden sprout
and does not rush to early ripening.
~ Wayne Dyer version
In attempting to live this 15th verse of the Tao I concentrated on practising stillness, while also noticing when I was being anything but still.
I have mentioned before in these Tao Year posts that I sometimes think I’ve always been in a hurry. I was in a hurry to learn as much as I could from a very young age. I was in a hurry to grow up. I was in a hurry to choose a career path. I was in a hurry to find a man to marry (even if I didn’t get married for some years, I wanted to just find the man I was going to marry so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore!!) … boy it makes me laugh now.
But at the same time, some habits die hard. Or maybe it’s nature. I feel like my nature is quite driven. My parents never pushed me or pressured me to get good marks at school or to go to university or choose a certain job path.
They were always extremely supportive of all my ambitious dreams and plans, but even from the age of 5, I can remember being incredibly driven to achieve, learn and grow myself.
As any of you who have known me for a while – either online or off – would know, I’m still always juggling multiple projects, along with bringing up my daughter, running a household, often doing some volunteer work of some sort, and managing my health.
The idea of living an unhurried life is not one I believe I have consciously chosen. I believe my true, higher self has chosen it for me by giving me the ‘gift’ of CFS/ME and electrosensitivity.
Part of the reason I don’t post blogs more often is because the EMHS forces me to slow down. The headaches/migraines and facial pain I get from the computer, phone, TV, heater etc etc are something I’ve chosen to put up with, due to currently having no way to avoid them except with abstinence.
But the accumulation of the pain, the tightness it causes in my neck, shoulders and back, and the extra fatigue it adds to my day all take their toll, and at times I just have to give in and abstain from using the computer.
This slows me down in this ever-technical world. Even my smartphone causes severe pain just looking at it for a few seconds, so on really bad days I need to restrict the texting and messaging.
During pregnancy 13 years ago, when it all escalated, I had no reference point for how to deal with it, and I didn’t know if the pain indicated irreversible damage to my body. I was in a total tailspin and nobody had any answers.
It was a miserable time, but I now realise it was the beginning of me learning to live an unhurried life.
Frankly, it was a bit like the Universe hit me with a sledgehammer, totally knocking me off my axis and taking all my loved ones with me. So I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to start living an unhurried life if you can avoid it.
But obviously, for me to be stopped and to reassess and take on the path I was meant to take in this world, a sledgehammer from the Universe was what was needed.
If I’m honest, despite the hellish experience it was for those first few years, I think it was the only way to really get my attention and have me totally reassess my life.
In the process of finding my path to wellness, I have discovered meditation and mindfulness, as well as yoga and many alternative health modalities that help me manage my energy.
I’ve also allowed myself to slowly let go of all my judgements about organised religion and open myself up to a wide range of spiritual influences, not to mention all the personal development courses, audiobooks and books I’ve consumed or participated in.
And so, more and more, I experience and value stillness in my life.
I also value silence in a way I would never have believed I could 15 years ago.
I was a child of the 70s and 80s, where television was a relatively new technology, and it was on in our house all day long. It still is – when I visit my family home. And when I moved out at 18, I continued the tradition.
I always had the TV on just for background noise. When I first married, my husband worked evenings a lot, so the TV kept me company.
Even when TV became a painful non-option during pregnancy, my battery-powered radio filled the void.
I was almost scared of silence.
In that latter period the noise was used as a distraction from my physical discomfort – feeling ill all the time and other neck, hip, back pain of pregnancy (plus the psychological pain of having all the ‘comforts’ and joys of my life ripped away from me – dramatic? Yeah. But it was rather dramatic suddenly becoming “allergic to electricity!!”).
But before that, I see I just wasn’t comfortable with silence.
I grew up as the eldest of four siblings, with extended family all around me, so there was rarely a quiet moment in our house.
But, harking back to our earlier verse re getting back to our natural state, I would often find sanctuary in nature.
As mentioned before, I loved to climb trees and sit up there in the relative silence. In my latter teen years I had a log I would go to, where I’d sit or lay my head on and look up at the huge eucalyptus tree above me.
So there were definitely times that indicated my enjoyment and need for silence and stillness.
When it comes to meditating, it took me years to be able to meditate without a guided audio. In fact, when I went to a retreat at the Gawler Foundation in 1999, I was thrilled to find out that meditation came in all shapes and sizes, and that I didn’t necessarily have to sit in silence and try to stop my thoughts!
Guided meditations were my gateway into silent meditation.
And now I love, love, love sitting in silence and stillness while meditating. Yet despite my love, love, love of doing it, I still seem to resist actually starting it. Funny that!
I now know the value of stilling my body and my mind. But knowing it and doing it are not the same thing.
So doing the 7 day challenge of just stopping every now and then for a few moments within my day (and sometimes for longer periods) and being still was a great exercise for me.
It’s not a new exercise. It’s one I’ve been practising for a while, but in my “busy, busy, busy” life I sometimes find it’s been days since I consciously stopped and checked in with myself.
That doesn’t happen much these days. I seem to be a lot more conscious of stopping and noticing my thoughts, emotions and environment. I’m much more conscious of stopping to take a breath before moving on to the next task.
But boy it’s taken me a long time to get to this point. And it’s a constant practice. It’s never a done deal. Just like meditation or yoga.
It’s when I can find stillness within my mind and body that I feel like I can feel stillness in my soul. And that’s where the real peace is to be found. That beautiful, tranquil, centred, grounded peace and calm that seems to fill every cell of my being. That’s what I aim to cultivate and grow, so that one day maybe I, too, can emulate the “ancient masters” in their profound subtlety.
Stilling the Muddy Waters
The muddy waters of my ever-active mind are learning to be still, and thus, provide a clarity I didn’t know in my teens, 20s and 30s. I don’t know that anyone could have made me realise the value of stillness in those earlier years. Even when I was almost bed-ridden I was still in a hurry – a hurry to get well and get on with things!
But, as this beautiful verse says, “out of that stillness/ life arises“.
As I write that, I think of one of the things I find most beautiful in my life, and have done for almost 13 years. Watching my daughter sleep.
I once read that watching a baby or child sleep is like a meditation, and so I have often taken the time to just stand there for a few moments whenever I can and absorb the stillness, silence and the beauty (and I have been known to take a photo or 10 much to my daughter’s ire now she’s getting older!).
I think watching anyone you love sleeping is a peaceful, beautiful experience of absorbing stillness.
Actually, even watching my cat sleeping is something I find incredibly calming. It’s just not something I think of often. But when I do it’s a beautifully mindful, meditative experience. Try it!
And on that note, I’ll sign off.
Oh, I do love the final line of the verse … “and (he) does not rush to early ripening“.
I think for years I’ve been rushing to early ripening and finding, as in nature, it is impossible. I keep being forced to flow with life, whether I like it or not. Resistance is futile (as the Borg says ~ Star Trek fan alert!).
Be still my friends … live long and prosper 😉