On Finding Stillness

I remembered today why I really went to Japan, nearly 10 years ago. It was to find stillness.

I had forgotten that. When people ask me, I always tell myself, and tell them, that I went because it seemed a fascinating and mysterious country. Because I liked the style, aesthetics and design. That it was somewhere I had always been drawn to since I was young. Well, these things are all true, but there was a bigger truth that I had forgotten. The reason I decided to go and LIVE in Japan, and not just go there to visit, was because I felt the need at that time to find some stillness. And something told me very strongly that Japan was the place to look for it.

I had visions of sitting in the mountains with an old, wispy-bearded sage, as he imparted his wisdom onto me and taught me the secrets of life, instructing me on how to live a contended existence and ultimately to be able to return to the ‘world’ with an all-knowing wisdom, a sense of deep understanding and a calmness and clarity of mind that would allow me to stroll through the rest of life unfazed, enlightened and unburdened.

Well, I never did meet that bearded sage in the mountains. But I did find pockets of stillness..

snowboarding off-piste, in the moonlight, on a silent mountain, daring myself to take that little jump at the edge of the slope…

Silent Slopes

Silent Slopes

standing barefoot on a soft, sandy beach in the humid night air, listening to the waves lapping, seeing the vast pitch black sky with a billion stars, and watching thunderstorms over a distant island…

Distant Storm

Distant Storm

watching a lightning storm light up the whole sky, thunderless, mysteriously silent but amazingly bright and dynamic…

Silent Storm

Silent Storm

being part of a drumming circle on the beach in Okinawa, with friends old and new, sitting around a fire in the warm, still night…

Beach Drumming

Beach Drumming

sitting on the veranda of an old Kyoto temple, looking out onto the garden of stones and moss, feeling the softness of the wood worn smooth by countless silent footsteps…

Countless Silent Footsteps

Countless Silent Footsteps

crashing though white water rapids in Hokkaido, holding onto the raft for dear life, laughing with terror and joy all at once, and then minutes later letting myself drop backwards into the water where it was still, floating silently on my back with the spring sunshine on my face and clear, fresh pure mountain air filling my lungs…

Going With the Flow

Going With the Flow

riding my bike with its little basket along the riverside path in Kyoto in the moonlight, energy levels heightened having enjoyed an evening with good friends. Riding home, at full speed, every so often hitting a bump in the path or a stray stone, and feeling the rush of trying to keep my balance rather than using my brakes..  Getting totally lost and not caring. Because I would never get tired of riding my bike through these quiet, peaceful streets, looking up at any given moment to see the magical and protective mountains surrounding the city – dark, powerful shapes looming against the night sky, crisp and clear…

003

sitting in an open-air natural hot spring, watching the steam dance and swirl over the surface of the pool, creating intricate shapes and moving as if aware of its own beauty and gracefulness, performing just for me, knowing I was watching. Looking up and seeing the snow piled on the branches of the pine trees, snow crystals floating in the air, and feeling the hot, soft water enveloping me and soothing my body…

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…And countless more.

For me, these moments are all times when I found myself in a state of flow, of mindfulness, not thinking about the past or the future but just being in the moment, my senses alive and my mind at rest. I have realised that stillness, clarity and peace of mind is not something that can be found and held on to as an unchanging state of being, passed onto you by some wise being, but that it requires constant nurture and practice.

What we can do, however, is take a moment to reflect on what it is that we are doing when these moments occur and notice what the underlying elements are which tie them together. Then we can commit to setting an intention to create the space in our lives to allow more of these pockets to appear.

…where do you find your pockets of stillness?

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