| BEAUTY | LOVE | TRUTH |
| PEACE | JUSTICE | FREEDOM |
which we experience and enjoy
as we embrace our fantastic journey,
On our way to attaining our true identity as a heavenly being we move through four stages of spiritual practice with STILLNESS the first practice of stage one, the journey of the Mind. I borrowed these four stages from Elizabeth Lesser. She calls them landscapes. She offers many ideas and practices in her wonderful book, The Seeker's Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure.
+ When we learn how to be still, really still, then we can truly know and experience the pervasive Love which is everywhere at all times. It’s here right now, at this time. Let this amazing Love be unmasked. Let ecstasy reign.
Stillness is the path which leads to awakening and awareness. While it is OK to sleep on the journey, you do miss a lot. So let’s wake up and become aware through the magical practice of simply being still.
When we are still we awaken to the glorious reality that … We are intimately, intricately, infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited, uniting LOVE which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.
Being still simply gives us a point to become aware of the movement, the flow, the dance. We become still and appreciate movement. Life is impossible without movement. But in stillness we learn how to move better, how to respect the whole creation more fully, even how to control movement for useful purposes. Of course our control is always quite limited and elusive. We think we have things under control only to find out that nothing is going as planned. That's OK! God has everything under control and that's all that matters. God is mysterious, elusive and holy. We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected to God and everything God has created and is creating. It's wonderful. It's real.
The importance of this practice cannot be over-emphasized. It is the foundation upon which all of the essential spiritual practices are built. It is both extremely easy and extremely difficult.
Since this practice is so important we will be staying here for a while and cover a lot of ground. It is life-giving ground. Let us thoroughly enjoy the ground here.
Breathe deeply. Breathe fully
Be still. Be silent.
Be centered. Be grounded.
Lighten up. Loosen up.
Let go. Let God.
Be glad all over!
Breathe! Breathe deeply! Breathe fully! We need to become completely aware of this life force within us. We need to be constantly grateful that we live, that we breathe, that we can enjoy the abundance of creation breath after breath after breath.
Yoga is a very powerful way to practice stillness. Doing Yoga, we learn to move our bodies in a rhythm connected to our breathing which promotes stillness. This is taught wisely and gently by the well known Yoga teacher, Erich Schiffman. In a great video -- Ali MacGraw - Yoga Mind & Body (2003) -- he guides us through the basic Yoga positions. In conjunction with this video, he wrote a book, Moving Into Stillness, which is illuminating, inspirational and comprehensive. You can find this book in print and much of it is available right here on the internet.
Yoga isn’t for everyone. There are other ways to enter the wonderful realm of stillness.
MEDITATION OR CENTERING
Meditation isn’t for everyone but most of us can benefit immensely if we find a way to establish some kind of mediation practice. If you want to begin this practice, I would suggest simply sitting in a relaxed and upright position, breathing deeply and fully, perhaps focusing on an object visually or listening to music or chants or your own sacred word or mantra. There are many methods. Explore on your own and see if one works for you.
Here are some of my favorite books for developing this practice:
+ NEW December 9, 2014: Early in 2013, I wrote the following chapter on the practice of stillness as part of a book on all twelve spiritual practices and all 9 heavenly attributes. I sense that some of the writing is sent by the heavenly council which is a mysterious presence in my life. I believe the heavenly council is available to all of us. I have found a way to listen. The council often likes to say with one voice, "I AM." Maybe you can discern when this voice is speaking as opposed to my voice or other voices. I invite you to participate in this conversation with God, with heavenly beings, with human beings and other creatures too. Please join in. Add your own thoughts. Ask questions. Ponder. Contemplate. Seek truth. Here we go:
+ “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) What happens when you become really still? You wake up. Buddha means Awakened. Christ asks his disciples to stay awake with him.
Most of us don’t realize how much we sleep even when we are not in bed, even when we seem to be very active. This is because our activity is often mindless, habitual, addictive, inattentive. Stillness leads us to a new style of awareness. We become aware of our greater reality. We become heavenly. We become detached from our earthly reality which is often so limited.
You are on a journey to wholeness. Since this is a journey in inner space, no body movement is required at this time. Even breathing is a choice we make breath after precious breath. It is not required. It is optional. So long as you have an earthly purpose it is highly recommended of course. Earthly life is precious, wonderful, fantastic, fascinating. But it is not the ultimate reality, not even close. Heaven is home, earth is not. Or, perhaps it is better to say that Heaven is our permanent home and Earth our temporary home. Earth is a place of wonder, beauty, abundance and life. It is a good temporary home. There is love here. There is love everywhere. In stillness we come to know this love in new and amazing ways.
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Love is required “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are here to love and be loved. That’s what the journey is all about. Wholeness is love. In stillness we become whole, we become loving. We become Love. We are Love. We are whole. We are complete. We are amazing. You don’t need to look for this amazing love anywhere else. You are full of it. Right now. Right here. Breathe. Enjoy the flow of life, of love, of abundance, of joy. You are amazing, fantastic, wonderful, delightful, beautiful, divine. In stillness you discover who you really are. You are NOT your limited ego, your temporary personality. There is nothing wrong with those things. You have ego and personality for a reason but it is not your ultimate identity, not even close. Got that? This is such an important realization. It is a required realization. You must realize who you really are, Love, sooner or later. You are having a temporary earthly experience. Make the most of it but remember you are a heavenly being first, a human being second. Got that?
It is almost impossible to write about this amazing state of stillness. But I will try anyway. But my experience of this glorious state may be different than yours in significant ways so please do not take me too seriously as a guide. You must find your inner guide and follow that guide faithfully. Sooner or later you must. My Inner Guide tells me what to do next all the time and sometimes I listen. I am listening right now and here’s what I am hearing: John (and all humanity) we love you. Trust us. I am making all things new. I am doing a new thing now. I am, You are, We are, God is. This is a joint project, an adventure of the new humanity, the new earth, the new heaven, the new community, the new faith for the new earth which is creating the new, glorious, fantastic realm of abundance, joy, wisdom, beauty, love, truth, peace, justice and freedom. WOW!
This is an amazing moment. A great evolutionary leap forward is happening now. You are on an amazing journey. Breathe deeply. Breathe fully. Be still. Be silent. Be centered. Be grounded. Lighten up. Loosen up. Let go. Let God. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be glad all over.
We want you to know, John (and all humanity), that this great evolutionary leap forward does require commitment, commitment to a new way of thinking, acting, feeling, being, doing. Let’s explore some of these new ways, OK? Good, great, fantastic, wonderful. Let’s go.
Move deeply into the state of stillness right now. OK? Good, great, fantastic, wonderful. Become one with everything. You can do it because you are one with everything. Yes you are. Dwell here in this knowledge. The sages of the ages know this and teach this. This great evolutionary leap forward means that there are now many more sages who know this and teach this. Many, many more. You are a sage, John (and all humanity).
Accept this responsibility. OK? YES! Good, great, fantastic, wonderful.
For a moment don’t let the demands of your earthly life intrude on your state of bliss, your awakened heavenly state of “Love so amazing.” Feel the love coming from the source. You are loved from within. You are love. You are everything. Simply enjoy this moment of awareness. You are awake. You are connected. You are. I AM. You are I AM. You are, or rather, I AM creating the new earth, the new heaven, the new reality. WOW.
Accept this responsibility. OK? YES! Good, great, fantastic, wonderful.
Let’s get specific now. What am I creating now? What are we, you, God creating now? In this heavenly state you become, you are, I AM, the creator. What am I creating?
I am creating more and more LOVE. That’s what I am creating. Love so amazing. Love so abundant. So healing. So peaceful. So reconciling. So delightful, delicious. Do you feel the love? YES. Good, great, fantastic, wonderful. WOW.
There are many forces resisting this amazing LOVE. But I am creating more and more Love. I am overcoming all of the resisting forces. Breathe.
Love so amazing means Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainable Abundance. This is God’s plan. It is your plan. It is our plan together. In the state of stillness, the specific ways we create more and more love become apparent, revealed.
It’s not my stillness or your stillness but OUR stillness. I am, you are, limited, imperfect. Even if I, you, become quite skilled in practicing stillness, there is no way I can be sure I know God’s will. I often need correction. I need your stillness. You need my stillness. We need the stillness of many others. A great American judge, Learned Hand, said: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.”
Remember, the more you practice stillness, the more you will realize how much you don’t know. We are limited human beings who only occasionally attain an unlimited heavenly state of being. Trial and error. Far more strikes than home runs.
The home runs might make you think you know everything. There is a part of you that does. But your ego doesn’t particularly like that part of you and works hard, very hard, to keep you ignorant and distracted. You need to look for all kinds of ways to move beyond that ignorance. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. But, on the other hand, you may be deceived into thinking that you know when you really don’t know. That’s why we need to be open to the wisdom and guidance and correction of others from time to time. Not all the time. There is no better guide than your Inner Self. Just make sure you can distinguish between your real Self and your false self. OK?
The Real Self is the Christ within you, the Buddha nature, the Holy Spirit, the oneness of creation, even the oneness of creator and creation. The ego wants you to believe that this identity is unique to you and to no other. That’s a lie but it’s a lie all too many believe.
This is why it is so important to STOP that chatter, that endless chatter, and be still leading to detachment and humility. You need to be detached from your ego and know who you really are. Then and only then can you begin to be connected to that guide within you which knows what you need, what you need to have, what you need to do.
+ Opening Stanza from Choruses from "The Rock"
soars in the summit of Heaven,
In the stillness
in Pocket Prayers collected by June Cotner
+ "When we persevere with the help of a gentle discipline, we slowly come to hear the still, small voice and to feel the delicate breeze, and so to come to know the presence of Love." -- Henri Nouwen
+ “As spiritual searchers we need to become freer and freer of the attachment to our own smallness in which we get occupied with me-me-me. Pondering on large ideas or standing in front of things which remind us of a vast scale can free us from acquisitiveness and competitiveness and from our likes and dislikes. If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate." -- The Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra
+ "Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly." -- G.K. Chesterton
+ “In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.” -- Howard Thurman (Gratefulness Word for the Day 11/21/13)
No birth, no extinction;
It is seeing into the
State of Suchness,
All categories constructed by mind.
- Lankavatara Sutra
NEW 12/12/14: + Ed Bastian, founder and President of Spiritual Paths offers powerful and comprehensive tools for spiritual practice including "InterSpiritual Meditation" and "The Mandala Process: Creating Your Spiritual Path."
Click here for a video of Ed speaking at the Aspen Chapel on April 28, 2013. He provides an overview and rationale for both the Mandala Process and InterSpiritual Meditation.
Inner Frontier offers a page on the practice of stillness by Joseph Naft, a wise and experienced spiritual guide.
Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffman, a wise and experienced yoga teacher. The complete book is available on the website.The chapter on Breathing is important. "Yoga Mind and Body" with Ali Macgraw is a really good video in which Schiffmann teaches essential Yoga practices.
The Orthodox Church of America offers "On Silence and Stillness" by the Very Rev. John Breck and "Witnesses to Silence and Stillness" by the Very Rev. John Breck and "The Gift of Silence" by the Very Rev. John Breck and "On Silence and Solitude" by the Very Rev. John Breck.
Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina as taught by Father Thomas Keating is an excellent method for entering the glorious stillness which leads to our awakening.
The “Sayings of Swami Omkarananda” offer some essential wisdom on how the practice of stillness opens us up to the abundance of God's love and beauty and peace and joy.
Bertram Salzman offers some very practical suggestions on how to be still. Here's some information about his book Being a Buddha on Broadway found in The Midwest Book Review. “Being A Buddha On Broadway: Access The Power Of Your Naturally Peaceful Mind is a self-help guide by Academy Award winning director Bertram W. Salzman. Written especially to help others achieve the peace of a subtle mind that Salzman achieved through spiritual awakening, Being A Buddha On Broadway offers dialogues, pointers, and a series of Attention Exercises to condition one's thoughts to screen out noise on the path to peace. A simple, easy-to-follow and moving instructional that promotes calm, well-being, and focus."
"The Death of Stillness" by Richard Mahler. Excerpt: "What's wrong with being busy? Plenty. Americans have become the most anxious, time-stressed people in the world, thanks in part to all the high-tech devices at our fingertips that are meant to make life easier. The white noise of trivia and the thrill of consumption fill our heads and guide our behaviors."
But keep reading. Bliss is going to happen sooner or later as we practice stillness. Kurzka says:
"Where is this bliss coming from? It is Love in action, or form arising out of Stillness; it is the Divine saying, 'I see You, and I am You. I am both this continual pool of Stillness and the waves of experience arising out of this Stillness.' Life begins to appear miraculous, lovely, and fresh, no matter what the nature of its content." | Read the article
Awakening.net offers a description of a powerful epiphany experience by Metta Zetty. Here's an excerpt: "In this moment of Recognition, I suddenly realized the fundamental simplicity of our existence and our purpose. There is nothing we need to do or achieve beyond the fullness of the present moment. And, I understood that this realization will dawn upon each of us, naturally and inevitably, as we begin to release our resistance to the flow of this energy moving within our lives."
+ Here is Ed Bastian's InterSpiritual Meditation Step Five – Mindfulness (5 Minutes)
“May I Be Focused and Mindful Through Breathing”
Calm, steady, and focused breathing are at the heart of many secular and spiritual techniques of meditation. When we breathe properly, we become less stressed and distracted; we are able to think more clearly, and to focus on the task at hand. Our blood-pressure drops, and our anxiety disappears. Many spiritual traditions teach deep and profound methods of breathing that balance our energies and center our consciousness deep within our being, where we are able to concentrate on our spiritual practice. In this step, we allow our consciousness to recede from our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch, thoughts, and emotions. As we breathe gently, our consciousness rides on the subtle breath into our heart center. This is the place that many traditions call ‘the seat of the soul,’ the core of our consciousness. Residing there, we may begin our own respective meditations, contemplations, and prayers. In this process, we learn to develop the capacity of ‘mindfulness’ and to observe our innermost thoughts, emotions, habits, and memories.
You can find all 7 steps at the Spiritual Paths website.
+ Excerpt from a 2003 Eckhart Tolle Interview >
Who or what is it that is able to observe that you are identified with a mental position? Who or what is it in you that is able to notice the emotional violence that comes as you start to defend your own position? You can then ask, "Wow, what's going on? What am I defending?" You are defending an illusory sense of self---your sense of self and your mind structure.
That very dysfunction, which looks relatively harmless on a small scale, is the very same dysfunction that drives the terrorist. So it's only in yourself that you can detect it. And if you see it, you see the root of human dysfunction and madness; identification with thinking. But the moment you see it, you are already one foot out of it. The seeing of it is not part of the dysfunction. So in other words, when you see that you are mad, you are no longer mad.
That's the arising of something new in humanity. I sometimes call it the unconditioned consciousness. But it is also a field of stillness, where you see the torn roots of the human mind. Once it emerges, it's a process that cannot be reversed. It emerges more and more fully, and you become less and less identified with the structure of thought. And then thought is no longer dysfunctional. It is actually beautiful. It can be used for helpful purposes. It's wonderful---you are no longer looking for an identity in the structure of thought because now you know that who you are is deeper. You are the very awareness prior to thought. You are the stillness that is deeper than thought, much vaster than thought. We call it "stillness" but it's just a word. We've reduced it to something. It's more than that. It's consciousness itself, unconditioned. Which is the essence of each human being. It's that when you meet anybody in a state of open, aware attention, without labeling them mentally or judging them, then that you are already operating as a current or conscious awareness between human beings.
+ An Excerpt from Stillness: Daily Gifts of Solitude by Richard Mahler
Richard Mahler pays tribute to the many benefits of quiet-alone time. Here is an excerpt saluting the sensual pleasures of silence and solitude.
"Among the first casualties of a too-busy life are the simple, sensory enjoyments that often do not survive in the fast lane. When you find time to be quiet and alone, even for a half-hour or less, such fragile pleasures may be rediscovered. They are part of what can make life feel more complete and satisfying. Suggestions for experiencing these small ecstasies include:
• Listen to the small sounds of your household that trigger positive feelings in you: someone singing, children playing, your spouse or partner laughing, a pet making its familiar quirky noises, or someone engaged in a favorite hobby or pastime.
• Close your eyes and take a memory trip in your mind to a time and place that brought special enjoyment to you. Ask yourself, "What did it look, smell, feel, and sound like?" "What tastes, textures, and emotions are associated with this experience?" " Can I re-create this wondrous time and hold it inside of me?"
• Do some things differently that you usually do in a distracted or off-handed manner. Specifically, try doing them alone and without speaking. This might include taking a walk, preparing and eating a meal, bathing, exercising, and listening to music you like. Notice whether the sensitivity of your senses is heightened or your mind is more engaged and attentive.
• If you have someone in your life who is willing and interested, try making love in a silent, yet demonstrably affectionate way. Without words, you may discover that other ways of communicating-through eye contact, smelling, touching, and body language, for instance-may take on new meaning.
• In your bubble of quiet alone-time, note the ways you appreciate yourself. Give yourself credit for who (and how) you are. Mentally note your best qualities, including aspects that others who are around you a lot (i.e., spouse, family members, colleagues, boss) seem to undervalue. If you like parts of your body, acknowledge that, too, opening your eyes to take them in."
+ S&P practice of BEING PRESENT > http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/practices.php?id=3
· One great thing about growing old is that nothing is going to lead to anything. Everything is of the moment. — Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion edited by Diane Osbon
· We spend a long time wishing we were elsewhere and otherwise. — Robert Farrar Capon in Bed & Board
· Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe — a moment that never was before and never will be again. — Pablo Casals quoted in Full Esteem Ahead by Diane Loomans
· Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we're going to be more cheerful in the future, it's because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now. — Pema Chödrön in When Things Fall Apart
· The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love. — Jean-Pierre De Caussade in The Sacrament of the Present Moment
· Every moment is enormous, and it is all we have. Our life is a path of learning to wake up before we die. — Natalie Goldberg in Long Quiet Highway
· One twelve-year-old boy, when asked by his father what he would like for his birthday, said, "Daddy, I want you!" His father was rarely at home. He was quite wealthy, but he worked all the time to provide for his family. His son was a bell of mindfulness for him. The little boy understood that the greatest gift we can offer our loved ones is our true presence. — Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
· From early morning until I go to bed and in all situations of life, I always try to check my motivation and be mindful and present in the moment. — The Dalai Lama in The World of Tibetan Buddhism
· The present is holy ground. — Alfred North Whitehead quoted in Teaching Your Children About God by David Wolpe
· The present moment, like the spotted owl or the sea turtle, has become an endangered species. Yet more and more I find that dwelling in the present moment, in the face of everything that would call us out of it, is our highest spiritual discipline. More boldly, I would say that our very presentness is our salvation; the present moment, entered into fully, is our gateway to eternal life. — Philip Simmons in Learning to Fall
· The present moment delights us. We see it as an opportunity for grace and mystery. It is our source of holiness. — Mary Margaret Funk in Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life
· Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
— Zen Master Takuan quoted in Simple Zen by C. Alexander and Annellen Simpkins
· We cannot become truly good in a better, more marvelous, and yet easier way than by the simple use of the means offered us by God: the ready acceptance of all that comes to us at each moment of our lives. — Jean Pierre de Caussade quoted in The Inner Treasure by Jonathan
· Change is the basis of human life, so don't attach yourself to birth or death, continuation or discontinuation. Just live right in the middle of the flow of change where there is nothing to hold on to. How do you do this? Just be present and devote yourself to doing something. This is the simple practice of Zen. Dainin Katagiri in Each Moment Is the Universe < http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/quotes/quotes.php?id=18687
· A few years ago a Gahan Wilson cartoon was making the rounds of bulletin boards in meditation centers. A seated figure, wearing what looks like a monk's robe, is whispering to the person next to him. He is saying, "Nothing happens next. This is it!"-- Sylvia Boorstein in Don't Just Do Something, Sit There < http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/quotes/quotes.php?id=23323
· When we come into the present . . . we encounter whatever we have been avoiding. We must have the courage to face whatever is present — our pain, our desires, our grief, our loss, our secret hopes, our love — everything that moves us most deeply. -- Jack Kornfield in Joy, No Matter What by Carolyn Hobbs < http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/quotes/quotes.php?id=23383
· Most of us spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do, but the fundamental verb is to Be. -- Evelyn Underhill in To Everything a Season by Bonnie Thurston < http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/quotes/quotes.php?id=23298