Pillars of Purpose Series – Stillness

Pillars of Purpose Series – Stillness

The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.

‘Purpose’ is defined as the reason something is done or created, or for which something/someone exists. The ultimate purpose, the purpose for human life itself, has been the subject of enquiry down the millennia. Modern-day individualistic schisms and behaviours put us at distance from the equally commonly held belief that everything and everyone is connected. Within that, most people still adhere to the idea that purpose is attached to the character and call of God, the Creator, and follow a path of enquiry, belief, faith system, or set of principles and values, to hold the boundaries of our lives.

The following are a sample of sayings and directions handed down about the importance of stillness for our well-being.

“Be still and know that I am God’ Psalm 46:10 The Christian Bible.

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and founder of philosophical Taoism

“Listen to the silence. The scriptures declare that our fundamental error is wrong identification. It means, so to speak, that we have left the silence and been caught up in the noise”. Hindu Swami Atmaswarupananda

“My heart is tuned to the quietness that the stillness of nature inspires” Sufi philosopher Inayat Khan”

“The soul has been given its own ears to hear things the mind does not understand.” Poet and Islamic Scholar, Rumi.

No matter what the faith system – or lack of it – purpose offers meaning and direction in life and can shape our character and direct our actions as we live.

So how do we achieve the silence and stillness necessary for the revelation and nourishment of that purpose?

First, be still.

Silence is the Mother of the Spirit, a warm place in the heart, a place of clarity and insight. Silence protects us, and prepares us to hear beyond our own noisy selves. The stillness derived from silence opens us to the possibility of having a purpose driven life.  

As silence is the absence of sound, so stillness is the absence of movement. To still the mind is not to be absent from it, but fully present to it. If we are present to mind rather than the thoughts that continually arise and pass away through it, a sense of deep stillness of being can be achieved. A stillness of being that fully encompasses the moment-by-moment experiences of the mind and body, but without being caught up in it.

From the standpoint of mindfulness, this state is recognised as being aware.

For all faiths and beliefs, the nature and practice of a life of purpose can often be revealed by being still and allowing awareness from within and without; hence stillness is a pillar upholding purpose.

How will you find stillness today? How will you find the silence in which to heal and restore your connection to self, to the Creator, and to transcend and transform life itself?


AL
Mindful  meditations and contemplations here …

Hope

Hope

Hope can sometimes challenge us – can we, will we, accept hope in times of despair?

How do we manage the unmanageable, that thing, person, or circumstance that gives rise to emotional exhaustion and hopelessness?

To be without hope is to be without optimism, expectation, or desire for the possibility of something more, something better.

There are many conditions and situations that can lead to a sense of hopelessness – mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia, substance addiction, PTSD, a history of abuse, ill-health, the list goes on.

So called normal behaviours, such as negative attitude, reactivity from underlying stress – blaming others, anger, threats – emotional manipulation, acceptance of verbal disparagement or abuse arising from an underlying sense of not being good enough, being challenged by a crisis of relationship, health, or faith, can also all lead to a diminishment of hope.

Often at these times we ask the unanswerable question ‘why? – why is this happening to me?’

The circumstances and challenges of life are often not personal, they are simply a condition of living, of being alive. No one is promised a life of happiness, we all know that in life we will experience times of unhappiness, a time when we, or someone close to us, will become ill, be in a situation, or develop a condition, that makes living testing.

We also all know that no matter how much we pay attention and look after ourselves, our hair, skin, clothes, and try our best to eat a healthy diet and exercise, we are still all going to depart this life, and lose it.

So how to think about this sense of hopelessness that can arise from living life. It begins in the mind. Our brains run on cycles or patterns of thoughts, as do our emotions and the associated behaviours we enact at these times. Without something to change or break the cycle, it will continue through to its end. Without options to intercept, giving the possibility of something else to take place, we are doomed to continuously repeat the cycle that can lead to hopelessness or despair.

In these times it’s important to recognise that your perception is not necessarily the reality.

Your thoughts can be distorted and inaccurate. Becoming more aware of your thoughts rather than engaging in the usual cycle, can help you identify the patterns, and with practice, the mental and emotional triggers that start the cycle off.

Here are some other things to try if you are feeling a lack of hope:

• Challenge your inner belief, and argue the opposite
• Instead of asking yourself ‘why?’ ask ‘what?’ – what can I do?
• Problem solve your situation, either to change how you feel about it or to solve it
• Develop and plan – then take the first step on it
• Talk to a trusted person or a therapist
• Consider faith.

Faith is a wonderful antidote to hopelessness.

The benefits of religion to mental health are known and are consistent across age, race, gender, nationality, and socioeconomic status. Human beings through the ages have constantly sought things to deify. There is a great comfort in knowing that everything is not just up to you, you don’t have to, nor can you, control life, that when you are fearful or call for help someone is there – you are not alone.

Spirituality and faith are a mystery, a mystery imbued with hope.

Movement is also a practical and potent way to help free up the feeling of being ‘stuck’ that can lead to hopelessness. Taking up the practice of Tai Chi or Yoga can help free up fixed mental structures/patterns. By creating more fluidity in your space, an openess of mind can occur more easily. 

The Ability Life website exists to offer encouragement toward a deeper inquiry into the mystery of life and to nourish well-being. Thanks to neuroscience, eudaimonic well-being has been proved to have a positive and healing effect on human genomes. Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of eudaimonic well-being as ‘central to reasoning, happiness and a rich fulfilling life’, and ‘a start point for thinking about the nature and purpose of human life, its virtue and its ultimate fulfilment’. It is our hope you will find our blogs, contemplations, and mindful meditations beneficial to yours.

AL

Note: This information is a helpful guide only and not as a replacement for seeking professional advice and assistance.

The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener

Over the years I’ve dabbled in gardening from time to time, but lockdown has given me the opportunity to really get stuck in. When all the children had left home I filled my empty nest with a few hens in a corner of the garden and looking after them helped to fill the mother- shaped hole gouged out of my life by the departure of offspring – offsprung!

A few years down the line and my chicken- keeping responsibilities are few as I’ve become used to what they need from me, which isn’t much. The space once occupied by childcare responsibilities has shrunk, but so too has the therapeutic value of hen husbandry. While life outside the home has provided much in the way of distraction and fulfilment, home has once again become the focus of my life in lockdown. Where to find succour now? More hens? Too much poo. A dog? Too much hard work! No, the family menagerie is complete – just ask the cats. And so I came to dabble in the garden once again.


Unlike previous short bursts of interest, the many weeks of lockdown have made a constant gardener of me, and as I have stuck with my daily toil I am now beginning to see – literally – the fruits of my labours. More than this, though, I have begun to tune in to the timescale and rhythm of nature. Where once I wore a watch every day, wrote all my appointments diligently in a planner and managed my schedule to keep all my commitments, now my perspective of time is more measured.


However impatient I may be, the dwarf beans won’t germinate any faster. The spray has subdued the powdery mildew for now, but unless the roses are sprayed again in a couple of weeks – and then again – the disease will keep coming back. Keeping to nature’s timescales is surprisingly different from keeping to other people’s, or even my own. In the early days of lockdown the loss of routine and structure in my daily life left me feeling rudderless, drifting. Now I struggle to remember which day is the Zoom meeting I recorded in the diary which has become my notebook. The natural pace of the natural world is soothing me.


It won’t last. Winter will come and my planner will be out again as I examine my dormant garden through the window, from my cosy armchair indoors. There will still be Zoom meetings to schedule into the diary, but also personal get- togethers to organise and attend. Hugs! But my garden is calling me to look to the coming spring, to plan out my seeds and plug plants, enrich the soil for the harvest ahead, move things round to keep the soil from exhaustion. I don’t want to lose this new and ancient rhythm of life. I choose to keep it, to make my other interests and commitments work around it. Like my spiritual life.

Guest Blogger K Atha. Psychologist, Preacher, Mother of Five. UK

For guided meditations and contemplations click here