Discover: Stillness


Welcome to stillness week! Thus far, we’ve engaged in practices that call, or ask, us to do something – be that through composition, or through the tools of Non-Violent Communication. For this week, we discover balance. It’s not the balance of doing something different. Rather, it is the balance that is found in the act of not doing. It is the balance that is discovered in doing… nothing. The practice of stillness.

When considering stillness as a theme of contemplative practice, it’s natural and common to envision a formal meditation practice, including cushions and all of the infrastructure that the vision requires. As it turns out, discovering stillness requires nothing more than the honest intentions to do so, and the conviction to establish the necessary boundaries that make it happen – both with others, and with yourself. Interestingly, successfully finding the time to do nothing is unlikely, and it rarely happens by itself. Rather than finding the time, passively, we’re going to take the time, actively! If we create the conditions for stillness to arise, it is more likely to do so.

So that is the work of this stop. There are a variety of ways in which we can find stillness as a contemplative practice. If we engage with stillness, what will we find as we gaze into it as if looking at the stars.

As always, when you’ve experimented through the suggestions of this stop, complete the form below to indicate the completion of your experimentation for verification by your campus passport representative.

Exercises to Practice

  • The Metta Pause

    This one is good for those times when we find ourselves in line somewhere, or when we’re simply waiting for something… at the grocery store, in the dinner line, at the gas station… any time when you’re at a state of pause while we’re waiting for someone, or something, to happen. While we’re waiting, we can pause and consider individually, or as a group, those around us. We can take a moment to make brief eye contact with them, or gaze at them in a non-attention seeking way, and as we do, we can say to ourselves a Metta phrase. These Metta phrases are statements, or offerings, of good will, and ask for nothing in return. They are simply good for goodness sake! Examples may include the following…

    • “May you be well.”
    • “May you be safe.”
    • “May you be at peace.”

    Of course, when the line starts moving, it’s good to take a moment to pause and offer this to yourself as well…

    “May I be well, may I be safe, may I be at peace.”

    I like to throw in an extra kicker on occasion… “May I be free.”

    Feel free to deploy this practice at any time, noticing how it feels to offer free loving kindness to ones you love, or complete strangers around you this holiday season! Chances are, it won’t make you feel worse. Try it out!

  • Formal Sitting Posture with Mindfulness

When many of us (ourselves included) put our mind to the possibility of formal sitting meditation, we find that we often hear, or think, that it’s hard to find the time. Who has time to do nothing when there is so much something to do?! Well, it turns out that actual formal sitting meditation isn’t really “doing nothing.” Although it looks like a person is just sitting there, so much is happening on the inside to consider and observe. Although it can be used for relaxation and stress reduction, a meditation practice has so much more to offer than that! Rather than just using it as a prescription for stress relief, we encourage you to explore meditation as a part of your active day – actively sit, actively follow your breathing, actively pay attention to what is happening as it happens.

Your exploration for this offering is to engage in a practice of meditation for six consecutive days, with a sitting of no less than 10 minutes for each sit. Of course, you are totally welcome to sit for longer durations, but this will definitely serve as a starting point for a practice, with enough repetition of the practice to give you a sense of what it is like to have a meditation practice, and it will show you a bit about the challenges that you might personally face as your practice grows into a possible routine.

Also, at the end of the week, you’ll be able to say that you sat for an hour during the week, and that sounds great!

At the end of this page, you’ll find some links to some quality, reputable meditation guidelines and instructions.

  • Mindful Eating and/or Drinking

This practice is a good one to try anytime you find yourself eating or drinking, which makes it perfect as an activity in the workspace! This can be practiced over a meal (lunch, presumably), with a snack, or with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The task for this activity, quite simply, is to consume something – solid or liquid, with your attention being fully paid on the experience of the consuming. As you can imagine, as you engage in this experience, you won’t be grading, checking your email, or engaged in compelling conversation with another. Rather, you’ll be fully immersed – or trying to be – in the act of eating or drinking.

There is a great article about mindful eating published by the National Institutes of Health, and you can read more about it, and find the guidelines on how to engage in a simple mindful eating exercise by clicking HERE.

  • Walking Meditation Posture with Mindfulness

“Practising walking meditation is to practice meditation while you walk. You walk, and you do it as if you are the happiest person in the world. And, if you can do that, you succeed in walking meditation. Because we don’t set ourselves a goal, or a particular destination, so we don’t have to hurry, because there’s nothing there for us to get. Therefore, walking is not a means. It’s an end, by itself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The third of our stops in the land of stillness is with a form of meditation that folks often do not consider as one, as it doesn’t really “look” like meditation. Rest assured; walking is definitely one of the four “official” postures of meditation! In this practice, we are definitely walking, but we are doing so not as a means to arrive at a destination, or as something to do while thinking about something else, letting the mind wander, or listening to music. Like mindful eating, when we practice walking meditation, we are attending to the totality of the sensations that arise from walking. What we might realize when we practice walking meditation is that there is actually quite a bit that can arise!

Most often, when we give advice on how to do a walking meditation, the instructions are often to simplify the practice, rather than making it more involved and complicated. Many who practice walking meditation just simply walk back and forth across a room. One benefit to engaging with this practice in such an austere way is that it provides fewer distractions that might entice us out of paying attention to the physical sensations of walking.

We’re walking. We’re simply walking and paying attention to the sensations of walking. That’s it!

We welcome you to enjoy the instructions on walking meditation from! As in the sitting posture instructions, try to do 10 or so minutes per day for a week so you can claim at least one hour of practice time.

Enjoy Stillness! We’re glad you stopped by!


  • Films

The following films are made available to NOVA employees thanks to our partnership with NOVA Libraries!

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Which Stillness activities did you try?