A deep desire for an unshakeable ground is one of the things that has propelled my spiritual quest, along with a dissatisfaction with “what is.” By unshakable ground, I mean a dependable, reliable, trustworthy contentment or happiness that is present under all circumstances. I think most of us don’t want a peace that is easily rocked by the twists and turns of life; we want something unfailing and steadfast.
In my search for happiness, I’ve tried lots of things; different kinds of psychotherapy, massage, Reiki, yoga, channeling, workshops, retreats, jobs, relationships, substances, sleep, exercise, past life regression, and breathing practices. Most of them have all been helpful to some degree.
iRest has been the path that I credit for a deeper sense of relaxation, healing from some of my family of origin wounds and Awakening to my True Nature. (Caveat, in case you are wondering, I don’t consider myself enlightened, but now I know who I am – more about that later.)
How Do We Know Anything?
We know by contrast; we know the cloud because of the sky. Don’t take my word for it – test this for yourself. I think you will find, as I have, that each time I’ve looked I am conscious of something because there has always been a contrast, be it between liking and disliking, good and bad, light and dark or some other pair of differences. We live in a dualistic world and we know difference by contrast.
So How Does Contrast Help Me Find An Unshakable Ground?
This helps because movement reveals stillness. If we pay close attention, we might notice that our thoughts, beliefs, memories, emotions, body, likes and dislikes change with time. My mother, who is closing in on 90, knows the unchangeable; the other day she wondered out loud “who is that old lady looking at me in the mirror? I don’t feel any different.” Unknowingly, she was referring to that unchanging part of herself which can be the basis for happiness.
The 5 Phases Reveal Stillness
Everything goes through the 5 phases of birth, growth, maintenance, decline, and dissolution. This movement from birth to death can, by contrast, show us the unshakable, the unmovable. This, movement reveals Stillness.
An Exercise in Finding Unshakeable Ground
Begin by taking some time to notice that which is changing (such as the breath, sounds in your environment, your thoughts, your emotions, your memories)… then “feel back into” what is not changing – into the Stillness; it is there, subtle, but present. This is a felt-sense inquiry, not something to be understood by the intellect. For me, this has a felt-sense of open spaciousness, like falling back into the embrace of everlasting arms.
Now we are ready for the next step, which is called krama in the yogic writings. Practice alternating your attention between movement and stillness. Back and forth. First, attention on the object (the breath, etc) then into Stillness or Awareness (the subject). We can move our attention forward onto the object of attention such as the breath or sound, then back into Stillness. You may even feel the movement of attention as a sensation.
Finally, rest in the Stillness.
How Body Sensing And Breath Sensing Help Us In The Inquiry
This felt-sense of Stillness can be subtle, so it is helpful to be sensitive to small shifts in perception, sensation or energy. We intentionally cultivate this sensitivity in our exploration to notice the fine perfume of Awareness. The more we practice body sensing and breath sensing the more attuned we become to delicate energetic shifts and signatures. Concentrative exercises (like breath counting or shavayatra) help us sustain attention and interest, as well as allow ourselves to spend lengthy periods of time immersing ourselves in and resting in the embrace of Stillness.
A Practice in Working with Stillness
Once you are able to notice Stillness and have some facility in alternately moving attention onto the object then back into Stillness, begin a second exploration. Practice this in as many different places, and under as many different circumstances as you can. This is crucial in testing the truth of this for yourself.
In the Midst of Life, Ask:
- Is Awareness or Stillness present now?
- Can I sense Stillness on the bus or in the car?
- Is Stillness present when feelings anger or grief are arising?
- Can I sense into Awareness when I am happy or intoxicated or in pain?
- Has Awareness changed or remained the same?
I spent a year doing this exercise and found there was never a time that Stillness was not. Stillness always Is. With the understanding that Awareness is present under all circumstances, it is possible to trust it and rely on it.
The Insight That Changed Everything
One day as I sat in meditation, I realized that I MUST Be what is always present! I am not discontinuous, that is, I don’t come and go. Just as Awareness is always present so I am always present. “I AM THAT STILLNESS!” What a joyous realization! The corollary of this is that I am not what changes. This means that I am not my history, my traumas, my emotions, my mistakes, my memories, my body, my anger, guilt, shame or blame. I am nothing that comes and goes. As one Vet being treated for PTSD with iRest said, “Now I have discovered the part of me that was not traumatized by the war.” Another vet articulated, “Now I’ve found what is right with me!”
At the beginning of this post I wrote that part of my spiritual quest had been propelled by a dissatisfaction with “what is.” Knowing that I am the Stillness means that I can stop fighting Reality, the way things are. I don’t need to change the world in order to be happy; I can be happy under all circumstances, including anger, sadness, grief and loss.
A deep acceptance and peace has come with releasing the war on reality. Do not take this to mean that there is no work to do to change the world – it is sorely in need of healing. This healing will happen to the degree that we realize that differences are appearances of which we do not need to be afraid. So in one sense there is nothing to do, knowing oneself as Stillness Itself. And in another sense bringing the Awareness of our non-dual Nature to others is essential. We must see each other as ourselves. By stopping the war within, we can stop the war without. Stillness / Awareness is who we are and yet ironically we must take a journey to a place we have never left.
Who I conceived of myself to be has changed. I now know the part of me that has been unharmed by the tribulations of life. From this unshakable ground I am more tolerant and forgiving. Relationships are easier and kinder. My trust in Life and myself is increasing. Out of Awareness has arisen a meaning, value and purpose that does not depend on the world or others. Nothing external to me can harm my essential nature. From this place I can relax in a deep abiding peace that is present in all of life’s circumstances. What a relief! Life still has its ups and downs. There are bills to pay, the body is aging, and relationships require negotiating, but living with these movements has become immeasurably easier. There is still work to do on myself and for others. I still make mistakes but I am compassionate with myself about them as I go about becoming a better human being. iRest my case 🙂
Coming Up Next: How To Meet, Greet, Welcome and Engage Your Trauma
Philip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with people who want to reconnect with themselves and their passion. Free discovery sessions are available in person, by Skype or FaceTime. You can email Philip here or book Philip here for your complementary first session.
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