I'm continuing to enjoy Domyo Sater Burk's Idiot's Guide to Mindfulness.
Today I read her take on getting comfortable with stillness and silence. This appealed to me, not only because I've been meditating every day for over 50 years, so I understand how difficult it can be to keep the mind and body more or less still and silent.
This also is espoused in Tai Chi, which I've practiced for the past 16 years. Of course, you can't be perfectly still in Tai Chi, which I like to call "Taoism in motion."
But listening skills are a big part of the effectiveness of Tai Chi as a martial art, a quality that applies to other martial arts such as karate. Tai Chi, though, promotes a certain quietude and stillness in sensing what an opponent is intending that is uncommon in more active forms of self-defense.
The idea is to sensitively sense the energy of a punch, kick, or whatever without initially interfering much with it, if it is interfered with at all. Only then can the attack can dealt with effectively, because you haven't allowed a premature urge to respond to interfere with learning what it is that needs to be dealt with.
Here's some excerpts from the " Comfort with Stillness and Silence" chapter I read this morning.
To cultivate the receptive attitude required for mindfulness, you temporarily stop trying to influence your circumstances and just open the doors of perception. You try to let go of activity, judgement, and trying to figure things out using your ordinary level of thinking.
You momentarily set aside commenting on things and explaining your point of view to others.
Your body-mind may generate thoughts and feelings all on its own, but you simply observe them as being part of your overall experience of the moment. You're just watching, listening, sensing, and perceiving,
The subjective experience of this purely receptive mode is stillness or silence. The absence of activity or noise may be internal, external, or both. It can be very uncomfortable if you're not used to it.
Fortunately, you can increase your ability to let go of activity and be still. You might even end up liking the experience! The more familiar you get with this simple mode of being, the easier mindfulness will get.
...Stillness is simply letting go of all activity. The activity you let go of may be working to obtain something you want, trying to avoid or get rid of something you don't want, or escaping something you find neutral or boring. It can be obvious or subtle.
...When you're able to rest in stillness, you become much more receptive to what's going on in your life. It's as if your mental and physical activity create a whole lot of noise. When you let go of that activity, it's like turning off the noise.
Suddenly you can hear. You're able to perceive what's going on around you.
In addition, when you turn off your volitional actions and thoughts, you dramatically increase your ability to see, touch, smell, taste, and objectively perceive the feelings and thoughts that are present in your body-mind in spite of "you" (that is, the conscious, willful part of you).
It isn't necessary -- or advisable -- to choose stillness and then do nothing. Mindfulness isn't about becoming passive. What you're trying to do is see your life clearly so you can take better care of it.
At some point action is necessary and wise, but you're unlikely to be able to know the best time to act or the best thing to do unless you take some time to rest in stillness first. This turns down the noise in your body-mind and opens up the doors of perception.
It's important to realize that stillness is not ultimately useless; it's only apparently useless at the moment.
As you rest in stillness, your body-mind is still present and operating; it's just not being guided or censored by the part of you responsible for ordinary discriminatory thinking and judging. The information that you receive while mindfully aware goes into your body-mind and affects you. You're just temporarily suspending judgment and action.
This actually gives you a chance to process things in a more holistic and deep way than you habitually do. Ironically, resting in stillness can help you make better decisions and be more effective in your life.