Last month, in the first of this series of articles on Meditation Myths & Misconceptions we explored the mistaken idea that meditation is all about making your mind quiet. This month we’ll explore a related idea:
How much effort do you put into remaining perfectly still when you meditate?
Have you ever had an internal debate about whether you should scratch an itch or not? Have you strived to stifle a cough, or even tried to avoid swallowing, lest the noise disturb someone sitting nearby?
Do you measure your success by how long you can sit still, comparing yourself with all those images of yogis sitting like statues?
Or do you let yourself slump lazily, or sway as though you were dancing to some internal rhythm?
Movement, I believe, is one of the most neglected pathways into relaxation and calm. Because we tend to associate meditation and relaxation with stillness and inactivity we may fail to appreciate how stillness reliably comes about through movement.
You may have discovered that by trying to stay still you actually end up quite restless. Conversely, you may have experienced an incredible sense of stillness while swimming, jogging, travelling on a train, or whilst practising yoga or tai chi.
Stillness, as long as you’re alive, is only ever a relative sense anyway.
Paradoxically, by tuning into movement, particularly those small movements your body makes as you breathe or balance, you may find that you relax more quickly and profoundly than you would by trying to keep still.
And that’s the lesson here: stillness is not something that you can make happen. It’s something that happens naturally, to the degree that you allow all those internal movements, whether of the mind or body.
For an elaboration of the pros and cons of various meditation postures, moving and still, see my article Everything You Need To Know About Meditation Posture. Or, explore the third in this series of articles on Meditation Myths & Misconceptions, on finding time to meditate.