I have a problem with getting still.
When I’m faced with a situation and not sure what to do or believe, a friend told me to get still and listen to my gut–that it knows.
But I have a problem with getting still.
When I am still, the silence can be agony for me. When I wait for an answer to an important question, a text reply from someone, or a response from an on-line blog on a piece I submitted, and sit in silence, it can be agonizing. When I am still, my mind makes up all kinds of stories to fill the silent space.
Maybe I’m not worth a response.
Maybe I’m too needy.
Maybe I’m too pesky and ask too many questions.
Maybe my writing is not good enough.
In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about the stories we tell ourselves, that they are often works of fiction, not based on any real information.
“When we are in pain we create a narrative to help make sense of it,” she states.
The stories that bubble up are neither healthy nor helpful. They may also be inaccurate. Still they persist.
In the book ”Less” by Andrew Sean Greer, the character Zorha talks about how our brain lies to us. In a conversation with the main character, Less, she says this:
“The brain is wrong all the time. Wrong about what time it is, and who people are, and where home is: wrong, wrong, wrong. The lying brain.”
To Less, this is familiar.
“He knows his brain has told him things he has traveled around the world to forget. That the mind cannot be trusted is a certainty.”
The problem with getting still has to do with my brain. The stories it tells me when I get still cannot always be trusted. And when I examine these stories, I notice that they are all centered in fear–fear that I will not be accepted, loved, or understood. These stories begin in the fear-based part of my brain–the reptilian brain. How interesting that it is called the reptilian brain, since it was a snake–that cunning reptile–that tricked Eve into eating the apple. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And it is my reptilian brain that is trying to trick me into believing all kinds of fear based stories as well.
In a similar way, the 7th century Indian philosopher Shankara, used the example of a rope and a snake to illustrate the concept of maya, which can be described as the clouds that cover the truth.
“Walking down a darkened road, a man sees a snake; his heart pounds, his pulse quickens. On closer inspection the “snake” turns out to be a piece of coiled rope. Once the delusion breaks, the snake vanishes forever.”
To trust my gut and get to a place of knowing–to make the snake vanish–I will need to find a new way to handle the stories. I’ve heard it said that the opposite of fear is love. Fr. Richard Rohr writes:
Only Love can be entrusted with Wisdom or Big Truth. All other attitudes will murder, mangle, and manipulate truth for their own ego purposes. Humans must first find the unified field of love and then start their thinking and perceiving from that point….Apart from Love, any other “handler” of your experience, including the rational mind or merely intellectual theology, eventually distorts and destroys the beauty and healing power of Wisdom.
So getting still isn’t really the problem, but what I do with the space that getting still gives me. When a thought arises, I can ask myself, is that a loving thought? If it isn’t, I can put it behind me. When I begin with Love in mind, I will determine if the stories that arise are fearful and therefore not real. Once all the stories vanish, I will be able to hear what my gut is telling me and uncover the truth.
The stories can be relentless, though.
In The Killers Song “This is Your Life” there is this line:
“You gotta be stronger than the story, Don’t let it blind you”
The stories are forceful, but Love is stronger and more powerful. By tapping into the field of Love I can move past the stories and get to a place of knowing.
Because only Love can overcome fear. And when I abide with Love in stillness, I will know.