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What Is Stillness?

It's sometimes easier said than done, but every precious second that we are able to find in the stillness of the present moment, where we are not pushed into the future or pulled into the past, is effective and all those small moments accumulate, helping to retrain our brains over time.

When the mind is able to switch off from the past thoughts of anger, regret and shame are absent. Likewise, when the mind isn't filled with what might happen in the future it is free from anxiety. A mind that is free from the past and future can be fully in the present moment and experience a moment of stillness. When we can allow ourselves time to stop and just breathe we give ourselves the opportunity to go within and listen. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga and the Vedic sacred texts, this is known as pratyahara, generally translated as 'withdrawal of the senses' it's when we make that effort to choose what we react to no matter what is going on around us. We can practice aparigraha, or non-attachment to thoughts that might at other times take all of our attention. In this space of acceptance we are open to hearing what is real and true. This is 'stillness'.

"As our concentration strengthens, wandering thoughts subside rather than pulling us down some back alley of the mind. The stream of thought flows more slowly, like a river—and finally rests in the stillness of a lake, as an ancient metaphor for settling the mind in meditation practice tells us." Goleman, Daniel; Davidson, Richard. The Science of Meditation (p. 39). Penguin Books.


"The practice of meditation frees one from all affliction. This is the path of yoga. Follow it with determination and sustained enthusiasm. Renouncing wholeheartedly all selfish desires and expectations, use your will to control the senses. Little by little, through patience and repeated effort, the mind will become stilled in the Self." from Easwaran's The Bhagavad Gita in Vaughn, Amy. From the Vedas to Vinyasa: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Yoga . Opening Lotus.


"In the Vedic system, the highest state of mind and way of going about life is called Sattvic... In a Sattvic state, you are still focused and productive, but your actions are no longer ‘driven’ – they are harmonized, balanced and peaceful... In a Sattvic state, there is a paradoxical feeling of contentment with the process, as if on some level you have already arrived at the goal you are working towards." Biddulph, Steve. Fully Human . Pan Macmillan Australia.


"To be still brings peace — and it brings understanding. When we are really still in the bush, we concentrate. We are aware of the anthills and the turtles and the water lilies. Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us, to be still and to listen to us . . . In greeting each morning, remind yourself of dadirri by blessing yourself with the following:
Let tiny drops of stillness fall gently through my day."
~Mirium-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann

Australia's own ancient culture knows stillness, it is an important element to their connection with nature and each other. Here is Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann talking about dadirri, "a word from the Ngan'gikurunggurr and Ngen'giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal people of the Daly River region, 220 kilometres south of Darwin, NT" (Source: Deep listening (dadirri) - Creative Spirits, retrieved from )

Many indigenous languages have a word that means something like ‘deep listening’ or Dadirri. During a meditation a while ago one of our own plus yogins, Heather, who's indigenous background is from the Wiradjuri people of central west NSW, told me that their word for Dadirri is 'winhangadurinya', a place of healing and reflection. These ancient cultures all have the same message to share to us; when we take time to find that little bit of stillness we can hear the Self, that part of us that is connected to nature, each other and the Universal Consciousness.

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