You Want Freedom? Then Be Still.
– If You Can’t Sit With Yourself, Where is Your Freedom? –
A common obstacle I hear from people who want to start a meditation practice is that it’s just too damn hard to sit still with themselves. I hear you, it is hard. Our culture is pathologically busy. We are so outside ourselves, so caught up in how everyone else perceives us, so caught up in becoming someone, in going somewhere, so conditioned for noise, for busyness, that when we finally face ourselves in the stillness and solitude of our being, it can be extremely unsettling.
Freedom, though, doesn’t come free. As with most good things in life, we have to put in the work. Now, this doesn’t mean we have to dive into the deep end right away. If you pick up an axe and take only one swing a day, the tree will eventually come down. Today, you can take a single step in the direction of freedom. Today, you can begin to get comfortable with the silence by sitting still with yourself for a single minute.
Use this free Habit Builder course to establish a consistent meditation practice. And once you make it a habit, try our free 30-day mindfulness course.
Freedom from Reactivity
Anyone who has tried to meditate, to sit still with themselves, knows how strong the impulse is to do essentially anything else. As we sit there, we start to incessantly plan out the rest of our day, we start to worry about everything we need to get done, or we start thinking about a show we want to watch or video game we want to play or some food we want to eat or perhaps a book we want to read — our mind will try to convince us to do anything but sit there.
As we get more comfortable with the silence, though, the mind starts to relax. We are able to watch all these desires and impulses arise in our minds without reacting to them. This then, as its cultivated, becomes a kind of superpower. Just consider how many times you said something you regretted almost immediately after you said it? How many desires you acted on, which your wiser self knew would bring you pain and misery?
The more stillness you can find within yourself, the more freedom you will have as you engage with people and the world around you. That ice cream you’ve been wanting to stop eating at the end of the night, that bowl you want to smoke, that glass of wine you want drink, that lotion you want to reach for, that new gizmo or gadget you want to buy — become a choice, not a compulsion.
But the freedom doesn’t stop here. As you continue to cultivate the ability to just sit, you also develop a composure, a kind of equanimity or coolness of mind, a relaxed posture, toward the difficult aspects of experience. In other words, your capacity for experience widens. You are able to endure harder trials, you are able to accomplish more strenuous, demanding feats.
The more you are able to sit still in your solitude, the deeper and stronger your roots become, and so you are more capable of weathering whatever internal or external storms come raging through your life. You are more capable of supporting yourself and your loved ones.
Finally, learning to sit with yourself also waters the seed of patience in yourself. Some of the best things in life take devotion and commitment; they take patience. And when we’re able to sit still, able to work through the boredom and distractions, a world of possibility opens to us. Our art, our writing, our work — all become beneficiaries of our patience, as do our children, our partners, and coworkers.
Solitude as the Source of Freedom
When we forget the silence, when we get lost in the noise, in the hustle and bustle and distractions all around us, we forget that it is the silence that holds everything we know, it is the silence that holds everything dear to us.
Music is not music without the silence, without the empty space between each note and chord. It is the silence that gives contrast to the entire world of things, it is the silence that brings to life the world around and within you, that brings to life your perceptions, your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. It is silence that is the source of your freedom and volitions.
For those of you who grew up under a Christian framework, the religion of the Word, we sometimes forget that the Word emerges from the silence. Without silence, the One Word is not heard; only ‘words’ are. But ‘words’ are not Love — they are many, whereas Love is one, it is whole. In the silence, in the embrace of the one Love, all words are spoken and all words are heard. Only in the context of this infinite Love do our words have coherence and meaning.
“When all things were enveloped in quiet silence, and when the night had reached the mid-point in its course, from the height of the heavens Thy all-powerful Word leaped down from the royal throne.” — The Book of Wisdom (18:14)
As Thomas Merton put it, “Even though one may be a learned man and may have profound knowledge of many subjects and many ‘words,’ this is of no value, it has no central meaning…if the One Word, Love, has not been heard. That One Word is heard only in the silence and solitude of the empty heart, the selfless, undivided heart, the heart that is at peace, detached, free without care. In the language of Christianity, this freedom is the realm of faith, and hope, but above all of Love.”
“Anyone who does not Love is still in death” (I John 3:14).”
May you find Love in the solitude and stillness of your being. May you embody lasting peace,
John Driggs | Meditation Teacher & Founder of The Space of Possibility Podcast, Blog, & Retreat Center | Explore & Expand the Space of Possibility that You are!
“In moments of silence, of meditation, of enlightenment and peace, one learns to be silent and alone everywhere. One learns to live in the atmosphere of solitude even in the midst of crowds. Not ‘divided,’ but one with all in God’s Love. For one learns to be a Hearer who is No-Hearer, and one learns to forget all words and listen only to the One Word which seems to be No-Word. One opens the inner door of his heart to the infinite silences of the Spirit, out of whose abysses Love wells up without fail and gives itself to all. In His silence, the meaning of every sound is finally clear. Only in His silence can the truth of words be distinguished, not in their separateness, but in their pointing to the central unity of Love. All words, then, say one thing only: that all is Love.” — Thomas Merton
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