I spent the weekend over in Maine – in the midst of nature. The more time I spend in nature, the more I begin to appreciate the wisdom nature has to impart. For example, every morning, we would go for a kayak ride in the lake. It is so beautiful in the morning, sounds of water lapping against the boat, the oars swishing in the water, the birds and most importantly, the silence of it all. So one morning, I happened to see a tiny turtle – black with golden lines all over it. It scuttled in water and hid under a rock. The next day I couldn’t spot it at all. And the day after, I did, and it hid in the seaweed and slowly poked his head out. And when the kayak splashed in the water, he (I am assuming it was him) ducked again. I squatted on the dock, alert to see where he emerges from – and then I saw a part of the seaweeds move, and he appeared again. When Adam came over to see the turtle, I knew I had to spot for the subtle movement in the seaweed.
And this got me thinking about the stillness and importance of stillness. To see the turtle, I had to become aware of the stillness first and then notice the tiniest movement – and during that time, I had to be alert without thought. This is why people like Eckhart Tolle say it is easier to find oneself in nature. Even though I hadn’t known the turtle for long, I feel grateful that it taught me a practical example of being alert and still.
Coming back to our daily lives – we are so busy just moving that we never step back, zoom out to look at the bigger picture. If I had just kept looking for the turtle without taking a step back to notice the stillness – chances are I wouldn’t have spotted the little wise turtle. Similarly, we live our lives as if we are in a noisy club or a disco – when we step out, the silence is so deafening that we immediately replace it with noise from iPods or idle chatter. Think about how we go about days in an automated way. Work comes at a steady rate at the office, and like a hamster, we keep running in the wheel. At home, we have things we do, and if nothing else, we watch TV. When was the last time you stopped before you did anything to think about what you are doing – is it the right thing to do? Do I need a break? Is there a better way to do it? Do I have to do it now?
Almost never – because it is akin to stepping out of a noisy disco and the sudden silence makes us uncomfortable, and we immediately make more noise. Real-life, creativity, innovation, great ideas happen in that pause – when we step back from the noise machine into silence.
The disco I am talking about is our mind which is filled with thoughts. And these thoughts are compulsive and involuntary. We cannot stop the stream of thoughts. Unless we use willpower, in which case the pressure builds up until it all bursts out, and the stream of thoughts erupts like a volcano, more potent than others. Sometimes the stream of thoughts is so strong that all you can do is hunker down and wait for it to pass – hopefully without acting on it. But if we step outside the thought stream, we can enjoy the beautiful road it traverses.
We need to get comfortable with silence, without thinking, the pause. Are you ready to step outside the noise machine – your mind and thoughts?