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stillness in meditation


With the gradual deepening of your practice, you will feel a wonderful stillness in meditation when you simply rest your awareness on the body.

The meditation teacher Gil Fronsdal, in one of his talks, speaks about visiting his son one day when he was in preschool.

The kids were all running around, as little kids do, but when it was time to transition to another activity, the teacher stood in the middle of the room, and started to whisper.

They became very interested in what she had to say, and settled down around her. They were really calm.

why we use anchors in our practice, and what they are

I like this story because it points to how we use anchors, such as mindfulness of the body, in our meditation practice.

The teacher whispering was an anchor for the kids. An anchor which helped them become still and calm. In much the same way, mindfulness of the body helps us find the stillness within the movement of our minds.

An anchor is any place in our body where we feel comfortable settling down. For some it can be the sensation of breath in the chest or abdomen. For others it can be certain aspects of our body, such as the sitting posture.

It’s a place where  it feels natural to hold our attention, just like an anchor holds a boat in place.

why we practice the anchor of body awareness at the beginning of a session

I often encourage folks as we start a session to simply feel that they are sitting. To sit and know you are sitting. We do this because body awareness is a convenient landmark that lets us see the often chaotic movement in our mind.

It is an anchor that reveals stillness within movement. We don’t try to stop the movement in our mind, just as the teacher in Gil’s story doesn’t tell the kids Hey, stop running around! That’s not a very effective strategy.

the stillness of the turning world

Borrowing a line from T.S. Eliot, body awareness can be for us the still point of the turning world.

We simply still down with the commitment to hold the body still for a little while. Mindfully aware of the sitting body, we notice it remains still amidst the movement in our heads.

The body slowly releases tension as we bathe the body with mindful attention. Tensions in the mind ease, too.


the stillness of body as a landmark

The stillness of the body awareness contrasts with the movement of thought. The body is a landmark against which we can deeply appreciate this difference.

We don’t force things. We don’t have the agenda, such as Hey, look how still this body is, why can’t you, mind, be the same way?

Just having the stillness of the body as a landmark naturally shows the organism we have a choice here.

we naturally choose stillness

Without us actually doing anything, the organism organically chooses stillness on its own. It has experienced the difference, and in time, when it feels it is safe to do so, it naturally favors stillness.

This contrast between stillness and movement is helpful because when you find yourself drifting off from body awareness back into the movement of thought, you see how different it feels to come back to the anchor.

You feel a connection when you are resting your awareness on the body.

When we drift off into thought, it’s like we enter a virtual reality that is disconnected from our life, from our embodiment.

the connection with the body brings joy

The organism feels more alive, more whole, and happier, lighter when it’s connected versus when it’s disconnected in the imaginary world of thought.

And when we transition out of body awareness back into the world, we feel much more grounded, more resilient, fresher, more supple, with a broader sense of agency, so necessary to get by in this crazy world.

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