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   Essays by Liah

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Practicing the art of stillness, as a form of self-love, builds the foundation for a peaceful life. When we are peaceful, we are naturally attuned to our inner wisdom. Yet, we live in a society that values activity, noise and accomplishment.

There is an alternate way emerging that invites us to sit still, listen within and access the tranquil silence that is beneath the chatter of the mind, the busyness of the body or the intensity of the emotions. This is evidenced in people like Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, and Amma, the hugging guru. They are living examples of individuals who have learned to quiet their minds and dwell in the calmness of being. These teachers precede their discourses with periods of silent meditation. They know that their wisdom is held in the silence. This practice of quiet presence is the key to loving ourselves. Yet, knowing this is not enough; it must be experienced first hand and on a regular basis to be beneficial in life. It's similar to knowing vitamins are good for us; but if we don't take them daily, they can't help us.

A daily dose of silent meditation strengthens one's ability to withstand the winds of change life brings, just like vitamins ward off illness by building the immune system. In particularly stressful times, a vision quest or spiritual retreat may be appropriate to spend concentrated time in quietude. When we remove ourselves regularly from our busy lives and schedules to focus on loving ourselves through silence, we add significantly to our reservoir of inner stillness, which helps us cope with life's challenges.

I remember a weekend silent retreat I attended years ago at Tassajara Zen Center in northern California. As I sat on my maroon zafu in the stark wooden temple at sunrise, I felt waves of jealousy come over me. “How unfair that these monks get to sit around and meditate all day, and I have to work hard and barely have time to brush my teeth.”

I seethed as I breathed rhythmically in and out. It was at a hectic time in my life when I was single-parenting four young children and working full time. I was exhausted and depleted. However, I was there to learn stillness, so I continued sitting with the monks. Ever so gradually, a softening happened in my body and a light appeared in my third eye.

I then heard, “Be still and know I am,” emerging from the depths of my being. This then shifted to a state of utter stillness where I was suspended from the spiral of the busyness of life, to the bliss of complete peace, which I now know is my true nature. I had escaped the trap of the mind despite myself, and was held in the ever-present moment of love.

This type of experience transports us beyond the personal realm into the impersonal realm of tranquility where our answers lie. When we can remember to draw on this infinite source of peace within our own being, despite the circumstances, we interrupt our old pattern of overreacting to what frustrates us. We instead know that everything is okay.

It takes discipline and practice to rewire the brain to be still and quiet rather than active and loud. It is a gift of self-love to spend time in silence daily. This is how we access our Divine higher self, the wisdom of our souls, and live peaceful, happy lives.

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