Many beautiful quotes invite us into stillness. T.S. Eliot offers this:
“At the still point of the turning world. …at the still point, there the dance is,
… Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
What is the still point? And the dance? Does the poet mean rest in the midst of unrest? Hmm. Stillness benefits our health, steadies our busy minds, calms strong emotions. But, can stillness contain busy-ness? Can the stillness of being include the dance of doing? Can we multi-task in stillness? Hmm.
I was confused. Then this happened. A friend stayed with us overnight recently. She emerged from the guest room wearing soft night-clothes at 7:30 a.m. to find me emptying the dishwasher and brewing tea. She strolled, sat, breathed and said, “Look at you in your blue jeans and sweater. You’re already dressed. Do you ever just rest? Good question, right?”
I said, “Of course. I’ve been up since 5:00 a.m. I’ve been on my yoga mat.” I did not tell her I had book in hand during the practice not only to calm my body, clear my mind and open my heart but to read a yogic text to prepare to teach a class next week.
Still defending my brand of quiet between night and day, I added, “And I meditated.” I left out that I meditated to a CD in French so that I could hear this other language I am trying to learn.
As I measured and poured a cup of oats and two cups of water into a pot, then ripped open the walnut bag and the raisin box, she sat, watched, sipped her coffee and said, “I start the day slowly.”
I nodded, “I do too.”
Her slow clearly out-slows my slow, though, and I started to wonder if my still point deserves the adjective “still” at all. I told her, “I do start my day by stopping.”
She shot me a bewildered look and said, “Hmm. Not sure what you mean by stopping. Please explain a little. Stopping what?”
I said, “Well, I don’t jump out of bed and turn on my computer. I don’t hit the ground running by getting up and right away checking my phone. I have the first things I do feel more like a stop than a go.”
She said, “Hmm. Let me think about that.”
What a wonderful contrasting morning conversation we shared, her introversion, my extraversion. I wondered later, if we give ourselves permission to be who we are, how would we define stillness? And if we have some level of self-knowing, how would we own our own way of resting? Do we each have our own individually-defined stillpoint within?
I looked up the word “rest” in my thesaurus: pause, break, breather, breathing time, ease leisure, calm, refuge, shelter, relaxation, respite, time-out. There were more, but I wondered again, can we rest inside activity?
What if our actions, the way we dance through making breakfast, the way we make tea, are our own body’s turning world? And what if a deep central inner stillpoint exists while we dance through our lives, move through our days? What if, in the midst of our own turning, in our core, in our middle, there is stillness, a quiet resting point in the center of the whirlwind of activity? Perhaps part of the human dance is to find ways and courage to contact, to access, our stillpoint as we twist and turn around it. Can stillness exist within movement? Good question, right? Hmm.