Saturday, January 8, 2011

Return to the Still Point

Whew! We’ve made it through another December, and the frenzy has finally come to an end.

Religious observances have drawn to a close. Another solstice has come and gone, as has the meteor shower and lunar eclipse which made this last one so spectacular. The advertising blitz is done. Potlucks and family gatherings are back to accustomed frequencies. Wrapping paper has gone to the recycling bin, and the hoopla of New Year’s eve is behind us.

It’s January, the month that comes after. Dark and often bitterly cold, January seems to encourage us to turn inward, to quiet ourselves after so much ado.

Let us return, then, to the still point, right here, right now. As you read these words~~
~~Feel the rise of chest or belly as your lungs fill with sweet air. Just as attentively, note the sensations as the breath releases on the exhale.
~~Observe the quality of light streaming through the window or radiating from an electric bulb. Become aware of gradations of color in the objects occupying your field of vision.
~~Notice the sounds that come your way as vibrations funnel into your ear canal, setting in motion the delicate apparatus of the inner ear.
~~Become attuned to your body in space. Notice skin brushing against clothing, resting on furniture.
~~Take a moment, as life~giving oxygen travels throughout your body and as carbon dioxide is gathered up and released, to marvel at a process as amazing as all this.
~~And notice, too, that you are settling into the still point.

Activities come and they go. Emotions and thoughts rise up and drift away. The still point, though, remains always. It exists independent of our awareness. Yet, when we consciously turn toward it, settle into it, it feels like coming home. For where else would home be? Certainly not in the hubbub that usually claims our attention. No, our true home is within this still center.

The world’s religions offer techniques to help us return here. Meditation, prayer, sacred dance, yoga and ritual are all designed for just this purpose. It is here, as we let go of all our mental and emotional machinations, that we can most easily, most fully, open to the Infinite. As author Alan Cohen puts it, “If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.”

While the Divine permeates every facet of existence, the still point within us is the clearest access point, our doorway. When we enter there, we are poised for deep communion with that which transcends and infuses, that which endures. Engaged in such contact, we become steeped in an energized restfulness. We can then return to our lives renewed, able to joyfully do what’s ours to do.

T. S. Elliot wrote, “Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” Our lives and the world itself are expressions of that glorious ballet. But as any dancer will tell you, the beauty of our individual dance rests on an ability to hold the still point. As we return to stillness again and again, we become more adept at maintaining a vibrant balance. We can then delight in gracefully and creatively dancing the steps that are uniquely ours.

Still point and dance, Yin and Yang~~complementary forces enunciating the whole.

The midpoint ever awaits. It’s right here, as you breath in, right here as you breathe out. Now, from this still point, dance the rest of your day. In the dark and cold of January, dance! Throughout the coming year, dance! Hold the still point~~and dance, dance, dance!!!

Loanne Marie


Anonymous said...

May the Blessings of the New Year be with you- Love that Ballet!!

Loanne Marie said...

Yes, the ballet. I've just heard a full news accounting of the shootings in Arizona. And again I wondered, as I had when I first posted this essay, whether my writing today was Pollyanna~ish. And I've come again to a settled place with it. Just as in all the great epic stories that are danced upon the stage, our own ballet will include its share of tragedy. But still, we owe it to the Ballet itself to dance our steps the best we can, whether our steps be light and airy or somber and full of sorrow. And to do that, we must regularly touch that still point.

Thank you so much for reading and for writing. Let's dance our hearts out. And this week, let our dance include sending thoughts and prayers out to the victims of violence bred of fear, in Arizona and throughout the world. And let us recommit to transforming the fear that lives deep in our own hearts as well.

Bonnie said...

I much enjoyed this essay, Loanne, in spite of the fact that my husband and I don't celebrate Christmas or New Years, so there was no hectic activity in our lives last month and therefore no reason for us to "let down" in order to locate out center again now!

Nevertheless, your reminder always of how we need to constantly get back to our center after being nudged into a distracting and pressured situation is right on, and I applaud you for constantly reminding your readers of this truth.

Loanne Marie said...

Yes, the particulars are as varied as each of our lives, but most of us seem to quite regularly tumble out of balance. That's why it can be so helpful to have a regular practice, one that rights us even before we know we're off, one that helps us become familiar with what centered feels like, one that can be our steady companion throughout our walk here.

Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Loanne, you are not a Pollyanna! Reminding one another and encouraging one another in our spiritual walks is the most important duty anyone could ever have! Your writings are appreciated.

Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God."

This material world is but a stage...

Loanne Marie said...

Thank you! I'm well aware, though, that for me to refer to this life as a dance, from my position of privilege and comfort, could easily feel offensive to someone who is suffering greatly~~the parents of the little girl killed yesterday and those waking this morning in pain from injuries sustained,for example. How very sad life can be!

I am grateful for your encouragement. Yes, be still. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmmm... You don't have to publish this; just a few thoughts on this new day. The material world is FULL of suffering. Full of sadness, sickness (both mentally and physically), old age and death. I certainly don't want to come back to it once I leave my body.

It is good that you are introspective; that is why I like your column. I am pretty sure your readers know that you are not insinuating that this world is just one big party, or dance.

No. We do suffer here. All of us, in some form. But to turn inward and find our still point, or the Holy Spirit, is healing. Then, when we are healed, we can exhibit the joy, love and long suffering in our own special dances. Our suffering helps us to be compassionate and patient towards others. We are more apt to invite others to our dance.

Gosh, I could go on and on, but I think you are being too hard on yourself in this particular case. So take care. Your column was very good and it gave me much food for though this past Saturday morning.

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks for the reassurance. As I wrote above, I'm comfortable with the intent behind this essay. I'm aware, however, that some folks might read it wrong. I certainly know there have been times in my life, times in the lives of people I know who have suffered greatly, when talking of the "grand ballet" might annoy, at best. After all, the suffering you refer to often makes us question the whole damn dance!

But I'm glad that my intent shone through the words. I'm also quite grateful for readers like you who take all my writings simply as an expression of one soul's attempt to articulate her path through this earthly journey.

Thanks for writing! Hope to hear from you~~and you, and you, and you!~~again!

monica wood said...

I think we all need to engage our inner Pollyannas more than we do. What is the harm in viewing our lives from the most expansive perspective we can muster? This reminded me of a previous essay of yours, Loanne, in which you advised us to imagine watching our lives from an ever-larger distance. That advice worked magic for me during a rough patch. The similar notion of a "grand ballet" is, at least for me, a comfort. I am not one who believes that suffering happens for a reason, but I do know from experience that suffering--even profound suffering--does not last in the acute stages forever. It shapes us, informs us, sometimes changes us--but it does not destroy us. It is the most difficult and incomprehensible part of being human, and we have no choice but to absorb it. Love your columns.

Loanne Marie said...

Engage our inner Pollyannas~~I love that!!! I think many of us are afraid of being judged foolish and, for some reason, feel that being cynical seems less foolish. But as you hint at, Monica, isn't it more foolish to be cynical and miss all the delights that are here for the taking? Whatever helps us open to the good would be good, yes? Yes!

Pollyannas united!!!

Thanks for writing!

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Leia Marie