It has been a few days since coming back from Thailand and I have been enjoying my down time.
There were many things I experienced within those 3 weeks in mindful retreat. Many things that I am trying to pick apart now, things that are floating to the surface – certain realisations that have been made and new layers of awareness that have been lifted.
If there is one thing I am trying to work on at the moment, its cultivating more of a sense of stillness. Not only do the Buddhists speak about cultivating a sense of stillness in your life, but Stoic philosophers also follow this theme of cultivating a sense of stillness in your life. Some claim that stillness is “the way”.
It is one thing to talk about what a sense of stillness is all about, but its another to actually cultivate this into your every day life. Having spent 3 weeks in a mindful retreat, I came to learn many lessons about the importance of what it means to sit still, in quiet and just observe what is going on, both inside and out.
Its in the absence of this stillness where we get caught up in our own pain and suffering. Memories of the past inflict sadness and visions of the future bring fear – each evoking a state of suffering when one becomes identified with these illusions in the mind.
The act of pausing and sitting in stillness became such a powerful tool for me during those times where the seas felt rough and overwhelming. Learning the ability to be able to pause in those moments and sit with your discomfort is truly something special.
Some people have said they see clear links between Buddhist philosophy and Stoicism. It is said that Buddhist philosophy is for abstract, creative thinkers where as Stoicism is for those who prefer logic and reason. I have adopted both into my life, maintaining a healthy balance between different ways of thought.
Where as a lot of traditional Buddhist philosophy comes from writings done by people who were living in some monastery in isolated, rural China or India, Stoicism was written by ancient Greek and Roman emperors who were in charge of running one of humanity’s most successful empires for their times. Whereas the Buddhists who lived in rural parts of Asia, the Stoics experienced life in Western style cities where there was a lot of economics, politics and many other similar themes we see in modern day society.
The common theme I see as of late is this sense of stillness. Both the Buddhists and the Stoics, despite the differences in their way of thought, both speak of cultivating this sense of stillness into your life. In order cultivate stillness, these things take time and practice. Mindfulness is one of those esoteric practices from Buddhism which help one achieve more of a sense of stillness. The Stoics had their own ways in which they helped train the mind and body.
It is said that some of the Stoic practices are now used in modern day psychology. CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy is used by many professionals now days to treat conditions like anxiety, depression and a whole range of other cognitive issues. These mental practices by the Stoics were said to inspire what we know to be Cognitive behavioral therapy today.
In a high tech, fast paced world, the lessons to be learned by cultivating more of a sense of stillness in your life can have some profound effects. There is so much bliss in the present moment where, false beliefs about the past and future cease to be your main focus and you are just there at peace with everything that comes and goes.