As a child in Los Angeles, Nayaswami Dhyana, Ananda Sangha India’s Spiritual Co-Director, attended church every Sunday with her mother. African American congregations are noted for their exuberance and lively spirit and her church was no exception. Dhyanaji once laughingly commented upon her minister’s Sunday discourse on the oft-quoted Biblical verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” “I can assure you,” she said, “Nobody was ever still in my church!”
“Stillness is the altar of Spirit. Where motion ceases, Spirit begins to manifest.” Paramhansa Yogananda was referring to the “inner stillness” behind the outer world of emotions, sense enjoyments, desires and restless thoughts. At the still center of all vibratory motion, the soul perceives love, bliss, infinite peace and the mystical sounds of Aum.
Sri Yukteswar tells of his once meeting Mahavatar Babaji in Serampore. When he excitedly rushed home to return with an offering of sweets, Babaji had disappeared. The great guru later explained, “I assure you that I was fairly extinguished in the ether by the gust of your restlessness.” So it is with us, a hundred-fold. Only when motion ceases is God revealed.
It’s not possible to hear God’s whispers if we fidget and make only restless appeals. Stillness within comes when we first learn to be still without. I have found my daily meditation greatly improved simply by keeping my body absolutely still for an extended time. This is the essence of Patanjali’s meaning of asana in his Yoga Sutras, the ability to hold the body absolutely steady. Physical, mental and emotional movement draws our attention away from the stillness residing at the heart of all creation.
Try this when you next meditate. Sit upright in a comfortable position, one that allows you to both relax your body while also maintaining a straight spine. With your eyes gently uplifted toward the spiritual eye, calm the breath and feel yourself to be a solid block of stone or a mighty mountain, immovable and rooted to your seat, impervious to the winds of change. Relax into this image and become infinitely heavy beyond the point of possible movement. Let not the slightest muscle move while you mentally affirm, “My mind is steadfast as a rock.” You will soon begin to forget your body as your spirit soars.
Eventually, your attention will be drawn to one remaining obstacle to perfect physical stillness, the breath. Watch it intently. Lose yourself in concentration upon the breath and the pauses between. You will find it naturally and effortlessly calming until, at last, it too ceases to move. What freedom you will then feel. In breathlessness is deathlessness.
Guruji said, “Free the mind with the steel knife of stillness. Cut loose your consciousness from the body. Use it no more as an excuse to accept limitations.” In the mirror of inner stillness, we will see God’s face reflected.