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We recently caught up with Philip Fraser, who has been teaching the Art of Silence since the early 1990s, to talk about the power of stillness and alignment. Philip offers his insights on letting go of distractions, becoming more present and aligned, and channeling balance and energy through the practice of stillness.
Being in Alignment
If someone is out of alignment with themselves, and therefore harming their own system, chances are they’re going to be insensitive to others around them and to the environment as well. But when we’re in alignment, we are sensitive to our own nature and to the world around us. Alignment starts at an individual level—so how do we get back into it?
Children are completely in alignment with themselves. They know when they’re tired or hungry; when they’re upset, they cry, when they’re happy, they laugh. There is no filter, no interruption between the emotion and the action. This is our natural state.
To re-align yourself with your experience, you need to allow yourself to experience your feelings and process your situations like a child would. In this way, you give yourself an outlet, which in turn gives you a degree of separation after the fact. You have already experienced a reaction, so these problems don’t have the chance to take over your mind later on.
Of course, we need to have the ability to perform socially in order to exist in the world, and that means we can’t cry whenever we feel like it, but this often leads to a complete disconnection with ourselves, and we can’t seem to reconnect.
A very simple way to process these feelings, to come back into alignment with yourself, is just to practice stillness. Not just physical stillness, but mental as well. You’re giving yourself a break.
The average person never stops. We are inundated with external stimuli, and are trained to be constantly multitasking. Not many people will feel comfortable sitting quietly or focusing on one task anymore—you see it in airports, for instance. Nobody is content to just sit there. We are constantly involved in some form of activity.
One of the many results of this constant activity is the inability to comfortably fall asleep. We don’t feel like our minds are capable of settling down at night.
Nature works in cycles; you have day and night, light and dark, winter and spring, and at the root of all of these, dormancy and activity. Your mind and body need that stillness, that silence, to properly rest.
I illustrate this with an analogy of a bow and arrow. If you want the arrow to fly far one way, you pull it back in the opposite direction and let go. Instinctively, we know this, but nowadays it’s hard to find the time and place to slow down, turn off our cell phones, and spend time with nature and with ourselves. The silence course gives us an opportunity to do this.
Releasing Thoughts and Emotions
Stillness rejuvenates us, it allows us to release our thoughts and feelings by experiencing them. We tend to deal with emotions by experiencing them briefly, then putting them away and claiming we’re fine. But these emotions don’t go away—they become dormant, stored inside of you. And so many of us just leave them there, or dwell on them, neither of which are helpful strategies.
The silence retreat helps us to realign ourselves in a formal way, through meditation and focused attention to the breath and body. During meditation, we often, without even trying, work through those old dormant emotions.
This doesn’t mean that you need to re-live traumatic events, or have a breakdown. It’s just, very simply, a time of letting go. There is definitely a degree of separation when you are observant of your feelings, “This is how I’m feeling right now”, or “This is what’s happening in my thoughts.” This awareness is enough to release those emotions, to send them on their way. It is a bit of a challenge, because we are not used to being alone with ourselves, facing ourselves like that. But it’s transformative.
Another way of realigning ourselves is to realize that we are, quite simply, pure energy. For example, kids have so much great energy, and they spring back so easily from every emotion. That fluidity, that flexibility, is our nature. Our nature is to be diverse; our nature is to have a lot of varied emotions going on at any given moment.
At some point, we start to deny any negative thoughts or emotions within ourselves. We strive to only feel happiness. But can you imagine going to a movie and watching people being happy for two yours? It would be torture! We enjoy, live, and thrive on the full experience of life, the dark and light. It is what makes us whole.
The Silent Retreat
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