Fiery flames dance atop the candles glowing all around me, I know because I lit them seconds ago, but I don’t see them. I’m alone with myself, attempting to navigate the rumbling, velvety darkness behind my pursed eyelids.
It’s the early part of the morning, the slim sliver of time-expanding space where all is perfectly, poetically quiet. Loud quiet.
The stars are still strung up, though their piercing becomes dimmer by the minute, and the energy of the day is still wet and fresh as dew; just beginning to stir like the first warm flicker of the tightly tucked wings on the birds who will soon begin their singing.
I am sitting up straight on the floor, stark still, breathing so slowly it feels just shy of impossible, and if you could see me you would swear I was now adrift inside the most pleasurable, comforting peace within my silken gentle body.
. . . not enough, not enough, not enough, what you haven’t done, what you need to do, what you should have done better, where you should be, what you forgot, how could you let that happen, not enough, what’s next, where have you been, waste of time, get up, sit down, too long, too short, faster, slower, more something, more something, not enough, not enough, something else, anything else, something else, not this, not this, anything but this . . .
Welcome to the truth of my inner world, the one where the opponent mind runs like a rabid mangy beast across the envelope of blackness.
I have at least learned one thing: not to chase him. I have at least become accepting of the crooked, cavernous, echoed blankness that is my inner landscape. I am no longer fearful of it as much as I am alert and mindful of my footing.
“The Art of Peace is not easy. It is a fight to the finish the slaying of evil desires and all falsehood within.” ~ Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, The Art of Peace
This is the reality of stillness, the ground that’s jagged, mountainous, and full of peaks and creaks. The inside of nowhere that contains the most exotic, ecstatic and exulted views waiting beyond forests dark as a moonless midnight sky.
I have learned it is not fully silent very often or for very long in this place. But I have caught glimpses of the naked holy silence. I have bent my reverent head into those rare touches and sailed my soul into them and soared my heart on them into a most divine inner calm, so beautiful I’ve even known tears to come.
Not very often, again, I will be honest. Fewer times than one could count on the delicately open and extended fingers of her hopeful hands.
But those moments of pure, sheer other-worldly peace are worth the blistery struggle to achieve them. They point to something. The promised silent moments of peace point to a way of emptiness that finally satisfies. They are the secret pockets of abundance that could feed the famished souls of all the world on nothingness if we could only grab the strength it takes to get to them.
These moments are defiant, too. They defy the greediness of the world and they slice into shreds the lies we are force-fed in constant by the outside.
We can connect at warp speed to millions of people all around the world and we do, instantly, but deliberately getting quiet to get in touch with ourselves is scary as hell.
We are terrified to be alone and yet we are so damn lonely.
We are so over-shocked nothing shocks us. We are so over sold, nothing satisfies us. We are so strung out as a society on the relentless cascade of connection, noise, cruelty and crisis. And what’s worse, we are haunted by all of these things even when we attempt to unplug.
We aren’t sitting in front of our computer, phone or TV but we bring their gristly static with us into the quiet. And in the quiet is where we are challenged to truly let them go. Not the physical devices, but the stranglehold of what is within them that wraps invisibly around our aimless, wandering bits.
So I seek the sacred silent moments because I just cannot shake this feeling of ruckus hope and excitement of getting to a freer place. I’m a teacher of the Peace, I know Peace. I know, I think to myself in these tricky wee hours as I sit next to my chomping fearful mind, how to get to it. I even know where it lies within, I think, because I’ve been there before.
But the star of peace seems to move and I often trip over myself to find her again. Or maybe, more likely, the star stays put and our position related to her is what moves. She’s a steady guide and we are the clumsy, wandering targets she keeps her loving eye on all the time. The peace is always there in everything, in every moment, but our paths to peace are as unique as our footprints.
Going still is an adventure of a different rhythm and texture for each of us.
As I stick to my devotion, my stillness practice, on this dark morning, the feeling of rebellion persists, vibrates. Pulsates. Begs, even. Come here, she calls to me, come closer, see me.
What are you, little ferocious beast?
You who feels so alive, so joyous and sharp? You who come on like a steady whisper, a rowdy invitation to surrender to the still? What would you have me learn in spite of myself this day?
The path to peace is laced with desire, danger, daring, and allure. There’s something about it that is soul baring and seductive.
And for all its gentle persuasion, why do I feel more and more like a warrior even as I get better at practicing peace?
It could just be, loves, that there’s something about peace – something beyond reason, something secret – that can only be described as fierce.
And getting to it, as anyone who has ever tried meditation (or simply, sitting still on purpose) will tell you, can be a very serious battle. It’s an inner battle aimed at richness and healing and beauty, but a battle none the less.
We should not confuse stillness with ease or quietness with bliss. We all have access to the power it takes to get to inner calm and peace but how many of us have what it takes to go there and better still to stay there? To return hungry for it every day? To commit to making Peace a way of life?
“Anyone who longs to see the light is signing up for many long nights alone in the dark.” ~ Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness
The seduction it seems is the call to fight the good struggle, the worthy struggle, to turn the sword on your own inner fears and falsehoods. It’s a battle to get to the truth no matter how dirty. It’s having the guts to go still and explore one’s own inner landscape, trusting that within it lie all the answers we need to live a meaningful, purposeful, and loving life.
Returning to peace is a struggle, guys, don’t let anyone fool you. It is a daily commitment to surrender. A struggle to sift through the vicious noise to get to the sustaining, life-giving warmth. It’s a deliberate battle to get to the light in spite of all the resistance the world hurls at us.
The faster the world races, the tougher it is to go still. The harder it is to push back against the grind. The more it requires from you as a warrior to meet harshness with gentleness and love. To absorb attack from within or without and not let it rattle you.
Strengthening the inner stillness allows you to absorb the blows and move on past them. It allows your true beauty to shine through the bleak.
“Foster and polish
The warrior spirit
While serving in the world
Illuminate the Path
According to your inner Light.”
~ The Art of Peace
It is not easy and it is not flashy, but the practice of stillness is fiercely disarming. And even though it may seem like the challenge is to squeeze in the time to create stillness, we should not be misled.
The challenge is, in fact, to shed the crippling noise that has kept us from returning to the peace we so desperately need, the peace that exists in constant. The call is not to learn but to remember.
For we may have selfishly crowded her out, but let us not forget, that the stillness came first.
~ ~ ~
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© 2014 Allison Marie Conway at Glory Begin