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LSDMB
LSDMB

12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 2: Stillness Empty 12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 2: Stillness

on May 23rd 2020, 7:31 pm
Message reputation : 100% (3 votes)
Stillness is a quality or state of being characterized by inner peace. It is a practice of inner silence, the quieting of distractions, the mindfulness of the here and now. It is as a rock on the beach, unmoved as the waves crash over it. It is simply being rather than acting. It is the practice of letting go of attachment, and finding reprieve from concern, desire, and worry. It often manifests through mindfulness, a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Stillness has been a primary focus of both the Buddhists and Stoics. The Buddhists pursue this in their primary aim to seek release from attachment to impermanence and the resulting suffering in this world. The Stoics do so for the purpose of sublimating themselves into the moment and away from the pull of pleasure and pain, all for the sake of unattached and unbiased reasoning to serve as the basis for a system of virtue ethics. Indeed, I have a handful of atheist friends who are fascinated by Buddhist or Stoic teachings who could wax poetic about the practices of stillness, meditation, mindfulness, and ego death. For this I am fortunate, as there is much I have learned from their understanding and their experiences, which I consider beneficial.

I have heard a minority of my fellow Christians vehemently reject both the concept of stillness and the practice of mindfulness meditation, given that it is most often emphasized by Eastern mysticism, modern day New Age spiritualism, and unaffiliated spiritualism of a more individualistic and nonreligious sort. This leads to a certain distrust in these teachings, under the assumption that they are at best false spiritual teachings given their primary association with non-Christian traditions, or at worst that they are tools of the devil meant to pull one away from God. This, in my view, is an unreasonable and seriously flawed way of thinking.

To be a Christian, it is not necessary to believe every other belief system or tradition is completely wrong in their entirety. Don’t get me wrong, I am no relativist who believes all ways of looking at the world are equally valid. I am merely stating that just because a tradition or worldview is not Christian does not mean that all things within that worldview are intrinsically diametrically opposed to Christianity, or that none of its teachings can fall into harmony with Christianity. In my own personal view, Buddhism and Stoicism are not flawed in their pursuit of stillness, which is very much a correct and admirable pursuit, but instead they are flawed due to their incompleteness in regards to other matters, the Buddhists more so than the Stoics.

I must stress that these teachings of stillness aren’t in fact contrary to Christianity, but are instead a necessary part of the Christian life. A practice of non-attachment to the impermanent things of this world is indeed not only a Buddhist teaching, but an injunction found within Biblical scripture as well. We are called to devote ourselves to the permanence of God’s glory rather than the fleeting riches and pleasures of this world. Likewise, the reprieve from suffering, desire, distraction, and busyness is not anti-Christian, but rather it is something prescribed by God for the benefit of man in the form of the Sabbath, the day of rest.

Indeed, these teachings find themselves expressed through numerous Christian teachers. Jesus Christ himself expresses them at numerous points within the Sermon on the Mount. Paul’s teachings contain numerous stoic elements, such as the injunction to not be mastered by anything. Mother Theresa also shared this sentiment.
“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
-Mother Theresa
Though stillness is not given as singular and extensive a focus within Christianity as it is in other traditions, it is certainly a very important part of Christianity. For how can one listen to God when they are incapable of silencing themselves? How can one follow a path beyond this world as they entrap themselves within it? How can one subordinate themselves to the God above them when they cannot even properly subordinate the things beneath them? For it is written that one cannot serve two masters.

Stillness is primarily practiced through breathing exercises and meditation. The latter is more extensive and profound, while the former is more applicable to a wider variety of circumstances, such as when a person lacks time for proper meditation or when one is engaged in a particular activity they cannot fully disengage from, such as an argument or a stressful and time sensitive task. There are too many techniques to count, and not all work as well for each person, so I would encourage you to research them for yourself and find what works best for you. It is important when you do to keep an eye towards all aspects of the technique, ranging from breathing, to posture and tension in the body. If you are a Christian, it is, of course, important to take care and avoid meditation tinged with a particular state of ideology that is in fact directly opposed to Christianity, such as “I am God” or “the self is an illusion.”

The benefits of stillness are manifold, both psychologically, and in regards to the cultivation of virtue. As is emphasized by the Buddhists, the non-attachment that stillness brings is a powerful aid to a person seeking after the virtue of temperance. When one practices stillness, the hold a person’s desires and impulses have over them find themselves greatly diminished. Doing so will help a person become slower to anger, less preoccupied with storing treasures in this world, and more self-controlled in their desires to indulge the flesh. Such a practice is of tremendous benefit in staving off the temptation of sin.

The Stoics, on the other hand, emphasized stillness as a matter of cultivating proper judgment. For the Stoics, minimizing the hold of the desire to seek pleasure or avoid pain was a cornerstone in their profound ability to reason. The lack of distraction allowed them to be more level headed, which consequently made them more prudent, while the minimization of their concern for their own pleasure and pain greatly reduced their own personal bias, allowing them to be more fair in their rendering of justice.

Then, of course, the practice of stillness also cultivates inner peace. The desire for peace is an essential and natural appetite within the human being which, when corrupted, becomes sloth, a lethargic weakening and atrophy of a person. However when brought to its natural place, the proper fulfillment of this appetite becomes a great source of strength rather than weakness for a person. It provides a renewal of strength through the diffusion of accumulated stress and pressure, and allows a person to center themselves in better focus. This strength is a boon to a person’s fortitude, both in the strength it provides for diligent work, and in the reduction of one’s fear and increase in one’s self-control so they may be more courageous. Lastly the inner peace and immersion in the moment provided by stillness can also serve as a source of gratitude and joy, the benefits of which were explained in the last section of the chapter.

Non-attachment, proper judgment, and inner peace, on top of everything else I’ve described, also have the benefit of aiding a person in their capacity for reconciliation. A person will find it much easier to forgive when they are not attached to their own sense of offense, when they remove bias in their favor, and when they are at peace with themselves. Likewise, proper repentance also becomes easier when one is less attached to a certain image of themselves, less concerned with their own humiliation and more concerned with what is right, and at peace enough with themselves to confront the things within that are less desirable.

I can certainly speak to the role stillness has played and continues to play in my own life. My practice of stillness began in the aftermath of what could be considered both a traumatic and spiritual journey taken at the end of 2016. The trauma of that experience left me plagued with a very intense and intrusive nihilistic fear, while the revelations gleaned from it allowed me to logically understand that nihilism is untrue. I was at a point where my reason and my emotions were in a profound state of misalignment, and I was trapped in a state of profound suffering and isolation from the world. At first, I tried to ignore these intrusive nihilistic thoughts, but, of course, when you try not to think about something… you just end up thinking about it. Next I tried to distract myself from them, which did me no good when the anxiety itself kept me from being able to truly engage and invest myself in the world outside of my own head. Finally, I relied on the use of breathing exercises to calm myself, and I was able to confront the thoughts from a position of stillness rather than anxiety and gradually bring them back under my control.

Since then, breathing exercises and meditation have become useful tools to me whenever I feel anxious or overwhelmed. In particular, however, meditation has become an important part of my prayer routine. Often when I pray, I’ll use the several minutes prior to my prayer to meditate, to silence my own ego, to bring myself to a place of inner peace, to rid myself of distraction, and to sharpen my focus, and in doing so, I am able to better approach God in prayer. I would liken the act, in some sense, to the cleansing of the body as part of a purification ritual undertaken by the Head Priest in ancient Israel before entering the most sacred part of the Tabernacle to commune with God. Its function for me is much the same, except it is my mind rather than my body that I seek to cleanse before speaking to God.

So by all means, don’t avoid the practice of stillness out of some misplaced prejudice or stereotype. If you are a Christian, know that stillness is an essential part of the Christian walk. If you are not a Christian, know that this is certainly not a uniquely Christian practice, but rather one with benefits recognized across a whole host of different traditions and worldviews. There are many benefits to stillness, so I implore you to find the practices that work for you and attempt to integrate it into your daily life.
Latham2000
Latham2000
Level Two
Level Two

12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 2: Stillness Empty Re: 12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 2: Stillness

on May 27th 2020, 5:29 pm
Absolutely correct once again.
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