Man is a creature of habit, but man is also that rare beast who has the ability to unlearn his instincts, provided he is aware of his own destructive habits. Restlessness is one such habit. What is restlessness? It is the disturbance of mental, emotional or physical equilibrium, which results in heightened and continuous states of excitement. This state occurs because we are continuously oscillating between negative and positive mental activity; fear, anxiety, worry, remorse, sorrow or discontentment versus love, pleasure, happiness, contentment and joy. Like a pendulum, we swing from one extreme to another.
All this persistent mental activity causes noise inside us, which is worse than any external noise because it is with us wherever we go. The mind is a powerful entity and it never rests. It is always doing something; thinking about something; ruminating about something, creating unrest and confusion within. This confusion builds a nervous energy in us, making us ‘rest less’. So while the mind is overtly busy churning a factory of thoughts, we are compelled to act and are left to cope with the consequences.
The cultivation of stillness is the best cure for this nervous energy we feel.
Stillness is foreign to us. We know only about movement, action, desire. These are the workings of karma, which essentially is habit. Repeated thoughts and actions soon lead us down well-trod paths, and gradually take us further and further from the open tranquil spaces of spirit.
Life is Fair
Most of us spend our entire life imprisoned within the confines of our conditioned minds or habits. Our physical and mental conditioning bind us to the world and its objects. If we are to change this conditioning, we have to calm down and bring stillness into our being.
When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I am that is deeper than name and form.
Stillness is your essential nature. What is stillness? The inner space or awareness in which the words on this page are being perceived and become thoughts. Without that awareness, there would be no perception, no thoughts, no world.
Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
The way to bring stillness into our lives is to pattern our days around consciously living in silence and in awareness of our senses and emotions.
It has been said that silence is golden. To go through our day calmly and simply, we have to cultivate silence. Outer silence is helpful; it relaxes and rejuvenates the mind and body from all the external noise around us. But in order to find the state of inner stillness, we have to develop that silence within ourselves; a silence which helps us to be a witness to our own thoughts. It is in the depths of this silence that stillness is found and awareness is obtained. Once we become fully conscious of this silence, we step out of lifetimes of human conditioning.
Keeping a check on our senses and emotions is also a very important discipline for us. For example, so often when a feeling of boredom arises within our minds, the first reaction to this feeling is restlessness. The second step is to do something about this restlessness: we watch TV, surf the web, and reach out to people through social media. But little do we realize that we are providing the mind with more material stimulation, which only excites it further. When we are only identifying with our thoughts, we easily get bored and restless. Instead, we should just observe our thoughts in silent awareness and create a space within us, a space where we are fully alert and aware of our own thoughts. In this space of stillness, we will feel a sense of quietude, and slowly the feeling of boredom and restlessness will subside.
We need to remember that we are not our state of mind, which is always subject to change. As disciples on the path, we have an added advantage – we can use our simran to alter our state of mind and calm ourselves down. In fact, before reacting to any situation or feeling that arises within us, we should pause and begin doing some simran to still the mind. This brief silence will give us a chance to regain our awareness.
In our daily meditation, we are tapping into our true essence, which is not the constant flow of thoughts, emotions, desires, worries and other preoccupations; it is a deep silent awareness that stands behind all the ceaseless activity of the mind. But we are so absorbed by what goes on within our minds that we have forgotten our true innermost essence, which is a quiet, peaceful stillness. This is our soul’s natural quality; this is who we are, this is who we have always been. We are the still water beneath the turbulent waves of a restless mind.