During the winter season, nature gets quiet and still and takes a long rest. Just like nature we are not meant to go full out all the time. Without rest, without some quiet and stillness, we cannot keep going at our highest level of functioning - physically, mentally & emotionally. Everything in life is meant to be balanced out in someway and if we don’t take the time to keep that balance for ourselves, the Universe will lend us a hand but maybe not in the way we would like.
Last week's blog explored Satya - Truth, the ultimate expression of this being our true self that is connected to our higher consciousness. Experiencing this truth comes in part from being able to listen to and trust our inherent, internal, intuitive voice. Listening to that on a deeper level takes silence and stillness. Why does it feel so difficult for many of us to quiet our minds? For starters, we may think that in order to get to that silence and stillness we need to shut out all of our thoughts and feelings. But actually noticing and bringing awareness to those thoughts and feelings is the first step in quieting them. To not notice them and try to jump over them is really to "bypass" them altogether and although that might work for awhile, it can ultimately slow us way down and keep us stuck along the road of our life's journey.
In our contemporary world of instant gratification and "easily solved" problems, we may find it more than a little difficult to sit in stillness and silence and listen to our internal voice for any length of time. We may even find it downright boring. But what is beyond the boredom? Might we consider going through that in order to get to something that actually connects us and grounds us? Could it be worth it to feel the temporary discomfort of feeling bored? Or restless, or sad, or some other "negative" feeling? In the pursuit of enlightenment or even just a happy, balanced life, there isn't really any "bypass" or "life hack" to be had. We must go through our places of feeling less than at ease or less than happy all the time. For those that have succeeded, they can tell you..it IS worth it.
In the eight limbs of yoga from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - after the Yamas (how we treat others) & Niyamas (how we treat ourselves) - Asana (movement) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are next in the order of preparation for finding silence and stillness. Those 3rd & 4th limbs are meant to help us move our bodies and our breath, to become aware, notice and explore the physical part of ourselves, and start to bring our attention inward with the breath, before settling into that stillness. The last four limbs, a whole 50% of the total 8 limbs, are dedicated to deeper & deeper focus of our awareness and attention, ending ultimately with Samadhi (enlightenment). In today’s modern society we are constantly in contact with visual and audio stimulants that keep our attention engaged on the external parts of life. In order to balance that out we need to take time to bring our attention to our internal life. Some parts of our internal lives are not easy to put attention on and we are even encouraged by those stimulants in the world to distract ourselves from how we might really be feeling. Uncomfortable, boring, negative feelings are parts of ourselves. Whether we pay attention to them or not they are still there and if we don’t spend some time bringing our intentional awareness to them we will eventually feel the effects of the imbalance they can create.
At this time of year, we are coming to the end of a natural cycle that might feel a little difficult for some of us to settle into. In the Northern Hemisphere many parts of the world are covered in snow. The effect of a snow covered earth offers a natural silence and stillness that is easy to feel and many of the traditions in those parts of the globe are a result of having to go inside to stay warm and cozy, to balance out the effects of the colder weather outside. There's also a connection to and celebration of the natural world coming to the end of an active cycle and beginning it's new cycle towards rebirth that will come in the Spring. Taking time to acknowledge these natural ends and beginnings can guide us to do the same as nature...look inward, take some rest and maintain a sense balance in our own lives. We might even find some calm and comfort in following nature's lead to take a break from external stimuli, and turn our attention towards keeping our internal fires burning brightly.
There are many ways to settle ourselves into the stillness and silence of the season. Like doing asanas and pranyama before our deeper meditations, we might need to laugh, dance, and sing first before cozying up in a private corner with a hot tea and our favorite journal for some quiet time of self-reflection. However you are able to find your way to external and internal connection, may the season be your guide, and may you find peace and balance along the way.