Be Still.

Written by Andō McDonnellWellbeing

A contemplation on stillness by Kashyapi. Includes a short guided meditation

Study the patterns of transient existence. The outcome of a game of chess isn’t fixed. A monk in the mountains needs to be free. People in the dust grow old unaware. Wind blows tea smoke over my bed. The stream drops petals into a pond. With thirty-six thousand days. Why not spend a few being still?

Stonehouse (1272–1352) was a Chinese Ch’an poet and hermit. He took his name from the Stonehouse cave which became his hermitage. He spent more than a few days being still.

We can learn so much from Stonehouse.

To sit still.

To be still, wherever we find ourselves.

We don’t have to be in a cave in the mountains, appealing as that may be.

It could simply be to be still for a few minutes each day, or each hour. Or to sit in silence for 30 minutes each morning. Or to Spend a whole day in stillness, stepping out of our usual routine. Just one hour can be a retreat. Retreats don’t have to be for a week, or even a day, nor with a group, or a teacher. A retreat can be a few moments, spent well. The act of being still can be enough.

To let go of routine.

To drop every thought arising.

To find that deep peace that lies within us.

All of this can be found in stillness.

Sometimes, it takes illness or exhaustion to drive us to lie down, or sit, and take rest, and in that rest, we can begin to enjoy this peace. But why should we wait to be driven into stillness, when it lies within, simply waiting for our discovery?

Why should we always be rushing around, chasing from one thing to the next, our mind filled with thoughts of steps even further ahead of us? It is only in becoming still, that we will see what is right here, right now, under our noses.

In living from stillness, we can truly live life.

Retreat in yourself, be still.

Just for a moment.

Does a mountain need to become still? Is there anything it need do?

Be a mountain of stillness.

Be still, and listen.

Perhaps you’re wondering how can you be still? Try this simple, short meditation:


For a moment.

Do nothing.


Allow all movement to fade slowly away. Allow stillness to settle, as a glass of water, shaken then set down on a table, quickly settles.

Settle, until the only movement in your body is the beating of heart, pumping of blood, in breath, out breath, rising and falling.

Turning your attention to the breath, let it rest there a while.

In breath, out breath, one movement, an edgeless flow.

Turning your attention to the mind, notice what activity is there. Don’t do anything with it, simply notice it.

Leave it alone.

Leave everything alone.

Notice that here too, there is a flow. Notice how thoughts are arising and falling away, of their own accord, just like the breath.

You are no more the cause of these rising and falling thoughts than you are the cause of your beating heart, pumping blood, inbreath, outbreath.

Just sit a while, with this discovery.

Simply noticing.

Not focused on anything.

Simply seeing.

Simply seeing what is already there.

Simply seeing the arising and falling away of all things.

Simply seeing that you did nothing for any of this.

Simply seeing that you only notice things when you give your attention to things.

Internal or external, no matter.

Your mind, or the world, no matter.

The same process is at work, and you are not the cause of it.

You are simply the witness of it, in this simple seeing, this open awareness.

What is there to do, here?

What can I change or fix, if I am not the creator or destroyer of it?

Ask yourself these questions. Enquire within. Find out who is the seer, and of what?

And when you’re ready, after even a short time, bring your attention back to the world around you.

You can practice being still anytime you like, anywhere you like. It can be for a few moments, or a few minutes, it doesn’t need to be longer. It’s a powerful, yet simple way to gain control of your attention, and to rest from the busyness of life, filling your head.

That’s where most of us spend most of our time. In our heads. Worrying about later today, tomorrow, next week, next year…

Or brooding over what we did, or think we should have done, earlier today, yesterday, last week or last year. Or even further back.

We don’t notice it.

Because we’re so busy with it, because we don’t stop to look and listen, because we don’t make time, or learn to do so.

What do we need to learn, to be still, like a mountain?

What do we need to learn, to sit, and notice the clouds passing?


Absolutely nothing.

We’re so busy seeking the complicated, that we miss the simple.

When we miss the simple, we miss the fundamental.

The foundation of life itself.

This is stillness.

When we point our attention here, to it’s own source, we see that everything is arising out of the stillness, and that we are doing nothing.

We’re doing nothing at all.

Yet everything appears to be happening, and it’s all our fault.

Even what appears not to be happening, we think it’s all our fault.

If more of us stopped to quietly reflect through this simple seeing, we could see a fundamental shift in how we live, act, and connect with others.

Because what is true for me, is true for you, and what is true for you, is true for everyone else.

What you will see in this simple practice, is how life is working not just for you, but for your partner, kids, colleague, boss, bank manager.

Then you might approach them differently.

Then the world, as you know it, is going to change.

All because you took a moment to be still.

Rinse and repeat.

Be still. When you’re sitting, standing, even when you’re moving.

Walking the dog. At the till in the supermarket. On the edge of your bed before rising in the morning. On a bench in the park in the afternoon. Over the photocopier at work. With a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Be still, everything else will be easy.

Be still.

Written by
Andō McDonnell
Poet and writer.
Ando is a talented and active writer - a woman who spent many years living in deep retreat from the world. Her poems are about silence, stillness, the research of inner peace, and the human relationship with nature. She shows us that a journey of self-discovery can be described with just a few words at a time: and the result can be beautiful and intimate poetry.

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