‘Stillness can multiply itself indefinitely, provided our mind becomes genuinely attentive to that stillness for long enough, and to such an extent that it becomes as still as stillness itself.’
All ancient religions, philosophies and mystic teachings are quintessentially based on the process of stilling. All other states such as mindfulness, meditation and higher consciousness are nothing more than the different manifestations that naturally occur whilst inner stillness is increasing in depth and scale. This means we only happen to meet them for a glimpse of a moment, depending on the current ever-changing level of stillness within us. Timeless teachings every yoga teacher is familiar with the second Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: ‘Yoga (yoking) is to still the pattern of the mind (citta).’2 This can be achieved by gathering latent impressions, forming a strong centre of gravity once we have gone through a process that leads to ‘four kinds of cognition: analytical thinking, insight, bliss and feeling like a self.’3 Throughout this stilling process our active mind gradually becomes passive, so that the pure self can be substantiated and realised.During my own inquiry into the nature of the undivided self, I came to the realisation that, just like the unknown and the beyond, the self cannot be objectified, because the self purely ‘is’ and simply exists as ‘no thing’.
In other words, pure silence and stillness resemble the formless self.
It actually comprises a depth of silence and stillness that is transcendental. It transcends opposites like multiplicity and unity, chaos opposed to harmony, as well as what we experience as the world of duality.This leads us to the conclusion that the inner power of stillness is the gateway to the true nature of the self that ultimately gives rise to a genuine state of presence, mindfulness and meditation.Science and Brain Function1 This article is based on, informed and inspired by the new book from Alexander and his co-authors Margaret Gill and Caroline Barrow: The Inner Power of Stillness: a practical guide fortherapists and practitioners, Handspring Publishing, released October 20162 C. Hartranft (2003), The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Shambhala Publications, page 23 Ibid., page 8
Based on recent scientific research, ‘the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015’ due to the massive increase in stimuli that we are exposed to from mobile phones, tablets and PCs. We therefore can’t focus our attention long enough to even come close to the experience of deep inner stillness. For most of us, inner stillness has become merely an intellectual idea or concept, because we are lacking the actual experience of it. Additionally, external stimuli continuously act on the amygdala and hippocampus that form part of the greater limbic system, where they are processed and distributed to other areas of the brain to be retained as short-term or long-term memory. This memory exists in us in the form of intellectual, emotional, movement and sensory memory. Its intrinsic nature is active, and it springs into action the moment it is stimulated and utilised.
Unfortunately, most of this active memory is mechanical, which is why we have a default response to the majority of the external stimuli we receive. We now understand the great imbalance between our active memory in the form of movement, emotion, knowledge and instinct, and the possible imprints of the memory of stillness. The former so easily overrides the latter. Solutions tapping our inner power of stillness means our work has to come directly from the self, in our yoga and our self-evolution practice, as well as in our work as teachers.
To the insightful yoga teacher and practitioner, stillness gives rise to a conscious workspace and a truly natural state of presence. This is not a state that is generated from a place of doing or intending, when we try to be present, mindful or still, or when we sit in meditation desperately striving to achieve a state of calm.
This kind of superimposed state can only be sustained by limited willpower, and vanishes the moment a stronger stimulus is asking for our attention. So how do we reduce and neutralise the impact of the ever-increasing stimuli of external impressions? Simply by acquiring and developing memory of a completely different kind and quality that we call ‘stillness-memory’, which can be seen as a new modality that we choose to act and work from. This gives rise to a truly self-reflective practice that no longer takes place at the expense of the self but instead is informed by the inner power of stillness that continuously radiates from the innermost depths of our self. Such is the inner power of stillness.
Statisticbrain.com, (2015). Attention span statistics. Statistic Brain [online]. Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/attention-span-statistics/ [Accessed 17 June 2015].
Alexander Filmer-Lorch – SYT, Teacher–Trainer, author of Inside Meditationand The Inner Power of Stillness (co-authors M. Gill and C. Barrow, Handspring Publishing), www.insidemeditation.co.uk