↓ click for audio (Linda Ronstadt – “Blue Bayou”)
↓ click for audio (Linda Ronstadt – “Blue Bayou”)
We enter the meditative state induced by counting laps, and observe the subtle play of light as the sun moves across the lanes. We sing songs, or make to-do lists, or fantasize about what we’re going to eat for breakfast. Submersion creates the space to be free, to stretch, without having to contend with constant external chatter. It creates internal quiet, too. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of them all, was found to have A.D.H.D. when he was a child; he has called the pool his “safe haven,” in part because “being in the pool slowed down my mind.”
…Five hundred lengths in a pool were never boring or monotonous; instead, Dr. Sacks writes, “swimming gave me a sort of joy, a sense of well-being so extreme that it became at times a sort of ecstasy.” The body is engaged in full physical movement, but the mind itself floats, untethered…The enforced solitude is at odds with where we are as a culture. Our gyms are full of televisions tuned to SportsCenter and cable news. We’re tethered to our devices, even at bedtime. With that pervasive lack of self-control, who has the willpower to turn off technology for any meaningful period of time? I submit: Sliding into the water is the easiest way to detach from your phone.
~ Bonnie Tsui, The Self Reflecting Pool
Photograph: Troy Jack
Frank Bruni, NY Times: A Quiet Cheer For Solitude:
Read Bruni’s worthy full article here: A Quiet Cheer For Solitude:
The blue river is gray at morning and evening.
There is twilight at dawn and dusk.
I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.
~ Jack Gilbert, Waking at Night
Yep, about the only way I’d sit still. Bunch of kisses from a big cat to give me some perspective.
A turn or two I’ll walk
To still my beating mind.
— Shakespeare, The Tempest
Don’t run any more.
How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city.
All things are…
~ Czeslaw Milosz, After Paradise
Here it comes again.
How many flights?
How many times?
And yet again,
at 1:30 pm this afternoon.
The Big Steel Bird reaches maximum altitude.
Floating above fluffy pillows of whiter than white.
Sailing below the Heavens’ bluest of blues.
Your Life resting in the hands of the trusty pilot.
Your Body in a straightjacket.
Your knees butting up against the seat in front.
Your arms tight to your body. Tight to your sides.
Your tension giving way. [Read more...]
“We yearn for silence, yet the less sound there is, the more our thoughts deafen us. How can we still the noise within?…In Vipassana you concentrate on sensation in stillness, sitting down, not necessarily cross-legged, though most people do sit that way. And sitting without changing position, sitting still. As soon as you try to do this, you become aware of a connection between silence and stillness, noise and motion. No sooner are you sitting still than the body is eager to move, or at least to fidget. It grows uncomfortable. In the same way, no sooner is there silence than the mind is eager to talk. In fact we quickly appreciate that sound is movement: words move, music moves, through time. We use sound and movement to avoid the irksomeness of stasis. This is particularly true if you are in physical pain. You shift from foot to foot, you move from room to room. Sitting still, denying yourself physical movement, the mind’s instinctive reaction is to retreat into its normal buzzing monologue — hoping that focusing the mind elsewhere will relieve physical discomfort. This would normally be the case; normally, if ignored, the body would fidget and shift, to avoid accumulating tension. But on this occasion we are asking it to sit still while we think and, since it can’t fidget, it grows more and more tense and uncomfortable. Eventually, this discomfort forces the mind back from its chatter to the body. But finding only discomfort or even pain in the body, it again seeks to escape into language and thought. Back and forth from troubled mind to tormented body, things get worse and worse. Silence, then, combined with stillness — the two are intimately related — invites us to observe the relationship between consciousness and the body, in movement and moving thought.”
~ Tim Parks, Inner Peace
This essay by Tim Parks is worth reading in its entirety. You can find it at this link. Parks references his book Cleaver in the essay. The book was chosen as a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year. It is one of the funniest novels that I have read. You can read my review of Cleaver at this link.
The Sheer Terror of Sitting Still by Mark Morford @ SFGate, Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Pause and you get eaten…Ruthlessly forward is the only perspective, the only direction, the only proper attitude. Self reflection and mindful presence? Calm and OM and inner stillness? Sounds adorable, but holy hell have you seen the pace of the world today? Who has the time? Who has the energy? Who has the patience? And really, does meditation even work? All the hoopla, all the supposed health benefits, all the ancient Buddha wisdom, even modern science slowly coming around to the idea that clearing your mind and working the “attention muscle” is beneficial for reducing all sort of toxic things, like stress, anger, road rage…But come on. There’s so much to do! Money to make. Empires to build. Spines to slouch and hoodies to wear and souls to crush. This is America. Work is all there is. Well, work, and the Internet…Eat or get eaten, sucker…for most Americans, stillness is… how to put this honestly? Terrifying. Deep, even momentary quiet freaks people out. The hardest thing anyone can ever do in our culture is sit still for a moment. The demons! The memories! Voices! Kids! Video games! The guilt and the doubts and the FOMO, all hammering down on you like a cold rain made of fear and capitalism and shame. And it’s only been… 27 seconds. Meditation is hard. We are addicted! White noise and activity filler and lists. Do you know how many apps there are for making To-Do lists, setting alarms, organizing schedules, keeping track of appointments and tasks and urgent needs? I don’t know, either; I’m far too busy writing this column to count them all…
READ MORE including his conclusion. Worth your time. Excellent.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. [Read more...]
Let there be
into the quiet
that lies beneath
where you find
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.
~ Jan Richardson (excerpted from “Blessing in the Chaos”)
Jan Richardson is a writer, artist, United Methodist minister, workshop leader, conference speaker and director of a company called The Wellspring Studio, LLC, which serves as an umbrella for all the writer/artist/minister activities. Jan and her husband live in central Florida. Her site can be found at janrichardson.com.