Between Step 8, “Today I will be still,” and Step 69, “Today I will practice stillness,” Steps to Knowledge directs students to practice stillness on 13 separate occasions. My mind has a hunger to know, “Am I doing it right?” Did I pick the correct internal point on which to concentrate? Am I using the breath in the correct way? How do I know if I’m doing it right? What am I supposed to experience? But all these questions contain words or phrases related to judgment, such as “right,” “correct” and “supposed to.”
I believe that for many students, the experiences of these 13 different occasions of practicing stillness will vary greatly. I think that is a good thing. If students are observing their practice, they will notice when they were more devoted and when they were more ambivalent. That’s a good subject for investigation. Some stillness practices might have been disrupted by the physical environment. Sometimes the mind is particularly insistent about something. Sometimes a number of things came together, and a small vacation is successfully taken from one’s mind and its concerns. Getting from Step 8 to Step 69 involves discovering that stillness takes away a great deal of suffering and drama, and is thus a worthy enterprise. Getting from Step 8 to Step 69 includes collecting data on what helps stillness and what hinders stillness.
Someone is reading this and thinking, “Well, what’s your stillness practice, Mr. Student-of-Steps-to-Knowledge?” I’m happy to tell you, but I make no claim that it will work for you.
I sit on a comfortable couch. If I am practicing stillness at night, I keep the room dimly lit with indirect light from outside the room.
I program the session by mentally saying once at the beginning of the practice period, “With each breath, I become more still, for I am worthy of stillness.” When my mind insists that I think about something, I mentally say “I will consider this later, but for now I will be still, for I am worthy of stillness.” This is using the idea from Step 32, “The truth is with me. I can feel it” of taking a small vacation from one’s mind. I imagine these thoughts floating up to the surface of my mind, as I sink further down toward the depths.
I steal a couple of pages from the playbook of A Course in Miracles. Somewhere around Lesson 50, there are a number of Lessons where the practice is to “find the light within you.” Another direction is to “sink back within the mind,” as if I am headed for the depth of the mind where things are known. Therefore, what I consider to be stillness appears as an inner brightness to me. As I become more still, I regularly see my body in my mind’s eye, stretched out straight, my arms pointed to my left and right, rotating in all three dimensions, as if I was attempting a fancy 10-meter platform dive down to the depths of my mind. I don’t understand why this is the case, but there it is.
I believe the fruit of a stillness session is being a little less unhappy about whatever I was most unhappy about the most before the stillness session. I believe the fruit of a stillness session is being a little bit more open to different solutions to the problems I face. Practicing stillness is a good way for me to become a little calmer and more rapidly adaptive in life.
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