The necessity of stillness is something that appears in the sacred texts of many religions and spiritual practices. In Christianity you hear about God’s “still small voice.” God doesn’t talk to any of us humans in the booming voice of Charlton Heston. If you want to hear it, you have to learn to become quiet and still. My favorite book by Dean Koontz is called “Intensity.” The protagonist in that book is a woman named Chyna Shepherd. She says in the book that God’s voice is so small and so quiet that most folks who manage to hear it mistake it for intuition.
Lemmie tell you, I suck at stillness. Presence, the topic of a previous post, I’m getting pretty good at. When I manage to stay in the present, and my senses are all alive, and I’m not worried or depressed, I can feel the channel between myself and the divine, that sense that all life is one, open up. The second part though, the stillness, which is what’s needed to hear the answers to your prayers, I have more difficulty with. Especially in today’s high-tech instant gratification 21st century world. I’m addicted to my devices, like many Americans. The other day I actually left the house and was riding Henrietta to the food coop, and I realized I’d forgotten my phone. I decided it was a sign that I was supposed to cope without it for an hour, and I actually managed. I rode to the coop, I ordered my lunch and sat at the table and ate it, and I rode home. And it was hard.
One of the things I am doing on the path to becoming an emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy person is Breathwork. It’s something I discovered going to Kindred Spirits Camp. There are different types: Holotropic, Therapeutic, Transformational, Transpersonal. From what I can see, the differences are in the way they are facilitated. The breathing itself is the same. You move the greatest volume of air as quickly as you can. Don’t breathe so quickly that you can’t breathe deeply, and don’t breathe so deeply that you can’t breathe quickly. Eliminate the natural pause that comes between one breath and the next. Make it connected and circular. By hyperoxygenating yourself this way, you achieve all kinds of interesting effects. Hallucinations, spiritual experiences, trips into the past…holding an intention in your mind can sometimes guide your experience, and other times you just go off somewhere unexpected.
The original guy who started the technique, Stan Groff, was looking to simulate the LSD experience without using any substances. Some people do breathwork just for that purpose – to have a natural “high.” He also realized during his early experiences with himself and others, that people could bypass their natural defenses and go places emotionally that traditional therapy hadn’t been able to take them. That was the case with me my first year at camp in 2005. It continues to be the case for me today. I go to group Holotropic Breathwork Weekends, and I do individual Therapeutic Breathwork sessions with a local facilitator as well.
Jeremy is my breathwork facilitator. He is amazing. I could do a whole blog post just on him and our incredible friendship and all the good things that have come out of it for me. I was there the other day, and feeling kind of spiritually stuck. The stuck feeling was manifesting as a physical sensation. My body felt heavy like my skin was made of lead. I could barely lift my arms. Jeremy sat me up and supported me from behind, almost in a Lamaze type position. I’m sure this was deliberate on his part because he frequently sees the breathwork process as a rebirthing – the client is giving birth to herself, and also re-experiencing her own birth. You are both the mother and the baby.
Still feeling heavy and emotionally flat, I started talking about how hard it was connecting with my higher power. “I feel like I’m lost in the woods and flailing around,” I said. “I keep getting off the path and being unable to find it again. I have moments of seeing the light ahead, of having a sense that I am getting closer to God, and then something inside me throws me off the path again. Anxieties, or hangups, or bad self-esteem, or something…and then I’m blundering around in the dark again.” Jeremy was quiet a moment, and then he said, “Become a tree. Put your roots into the soil, and stretch your branches up to the sky and the sun. God will be there.”
Wow. Talk about a powerful statement about stillness! It was a perfect metaphor for the difficulty I have with stillness; how I’m always moving, moving, moving, if not physically than mentally. The simplicity of it was so beautiful it moved me to tears. Become a tree. Be still and listen. God will be there. God was there all the time. I broke through the paralysis and turned around, and Jeremy and I sat in each other’s arms and the tears of gratitude slid silently down my cheeks and between my lips. The music was playing, and I was silent and still. I could feel Jeremy’s heartbeat against my cheek. I could smell the essential oils he uses for aromatherapy. His sweet loving little dog Bindi licked my face.
It’s not always easy, but it really is that simple. Divinity’s peaceful loving presence is all around us all the time. Be still and listen. Become a tree.