Way of Stillness


In healthcare circles it is pretty much accepted that a practice called “meditation” can be significant in the management of stress, and therefore quite important in dealing with a host of stress related afflictions --  from emotional problems to auto-immune disorders to cardio-vascular issues.  While much of the support for this opinion is anecdotal, there is also a growing body of hard data to back up the many glowing reports from meditators.

That said, there is also a lot of confusion about just what meditation actually is, and how it is accomplished.  Part of the problem is that over the past fifty years that the practice has been seeping into public awareness it has been packaged in the exotic traditions of the Far East.  For many, the term, meditation, as used in many Christian religions, means pondering moral recommendations, but once the distinction is made between that practice and the less cognitive practices from India or Japan, a good many of us will associate meditation with incomprehensible chanting, varying degrees of self-denial, incense, and bells.  In addition, there will be quite a sense of levels of mastery – from fidgety, bone aching beginners striving to sit cross legged on the floor on up to experts, highly revered, upon whose words would-be meditators hang in the hope of finding one more nugget of information that they need in order to climb the meditation ladder.

Before continuing, it is important that I place what I have to say in a personal context.  I write from a forty-five year span of failed infatuations, first with Vedic Yoga and later with Buddhism. These relationships had been dedicated; even passionate.   The opinions that I hold now are based as much upon a rather stark assessment of myself as upon my observations of anyone else.  What I perceive now as honest, muscular, and insightful opinions, may seem to others quite dismissive, arrogant, and harsh, with  notes of sour grape.  My apologies.  It is a lover’s quarrel that only stillness can resolve …

It seems to me that a very small percentage of Western society has accepted the meditation challenge in one foreign tradition or another, and the rest feel bewildered, offended, or embarrassed by such strangeness.  Of that small group of would-be meditators, I suspect many, myself included, have been quite frustrated. We have not been able to quiet our minds.  Nor have we had even a glimmer of the unusual, ecstatic, life changing experiences that we had expected.  Many of us have pretended success through the unspoken competition of soft smiles and a display of ever more debilitating sensitivities, but we are well aware that we have not had much luck in quelling our attachments or vanquishing our egos as had been so strongly recommended by the experts.  Perhaps I am not alone in having occasionally blamed my failures on a strange causal situation called karma, but the fact is, our mission turned out to be very difficult.  Still, there was something so very attractive about just being purely healthy, clear minded, and at peace, that we continued our struggles and others have joined us.

In view of these disappointments I would like to look at meditation a little differently.  I would assert first of all that it is not the sort of thing someone is better at or worse at than someone else, no matter how long they have practiced or how smart they appear to be.  After all, this fancy, foreign thing called meditation is just sitting still. Nothing more or less than that.  Just sitting still.  Perhaps it would be useful to abandon the messy, over-loaded word, “meditation”, with its exotica, exclusivity, and frustration, and just call the practice, “sitting still”.  That would imply not moving our bodies or talking; also being both relaxed and wakeful and thus able to handle sitting still for ten minutes or more.  Granted, even this is not so easy, but there are lots of useful tips about posture, breathing, and comfortable thinking that could be offered, but just for sitting still, and nothing more arcane than that .

Next, I would like to assert that sitting still is not a special discovery, a precious secret, or sacred offering from the East, but something as natural – if different – as sleeping.  I see bow hunters, fishermen, and idle people on park benches doing it.  But, strangely simple as it is, such behavior is a rather rare sight.  Watching TV does not count.  It is distraction, a busy-ness of mind; not stillness.  Kicking back in a lounge chair does not count.  It is not wakeful and alert.  Sitting in stillness is just sitting up, fairly erect, being alert, and not really anything else.  And yet that alone is pure gold.

The basic human habit of sitting in stillness, shared by cats, rabbits, frogs, and most other animals, seems to have been lost in many parts of the human world, our own included.  In other times and places the practice of stillness was inseparable from hunting, from being keenly aware of both the dangers and the joys of one’s immediate surroundings. It was inseparable from vigils with babies or the ill, of being with them until they slept, and then, as well, being ready to meet their needs whenever they awakened.  It was the occupation of long nights and dark winters with no other entertainment than a warming fire.  Quiet, but attentive.  Could it be that the demands of agricultural societies for long days of labor with down time only for rest, and for distraction from a difficult and somewhat crippled life, and then to an even greater degree, similar demands that came with industrialization, encouraged ever less time in idle stillness?  Whether we are paid by the hour or by the completion of tasks, seemingly unproductive periods of doing nothing are not an easy option.  And perhaps from that came a strong, if unspoken belief that the ethos and integrity of the highly complex societies created by these economic revolutions would be destabilized if people looked too closely at their thoughts and feelings, as would be likely to happen in stillness.  Yes, the promise of recreation, the pleasant distraction, has been an acceptable incentive to get us through the tough parts of our day or week.  And sleep, certainly, remains an abiding refuge and source of renewal, but the weight of a work ethic, an ethic of productive accountability for time and of the work-born pressures for competition and advancement has permeated our lives on and off the job.  We can be grateful for the society we have found ourselves in for the past seventy years, a society somewhat less driven by practical needs and yet motivated by the anguish of devastating wars and injustice toward a more effective cultivation of compassion.  At first, formal traditions of idleness, elevated to religious heights, were invited in order to help justify even small forays into alert and healing stillness.  Perhaps now, the notion having gained a foothold of acceptability, we can begin to value a simpler way of idleness as a necessity even in such a hard driving work culture as ours.

I return now to the analogy of sleep.  Suppose, quite fancifully, that people no longer slept.  Suppose that it had been considered a waste of time and by now had not been practiced for several centuries.  Yes, we had somehow learned to manage without sleep.  Our health was not great, and we felt deeply that something was missing from our lives.  We truly did not know what that could be, and somehow we struggled on in spite of our difficulties.    Then, suppose that the practice of sleeping was introduced from some far corner of the world.  A revered sleep master told us, “You are to lie down on a soft surface, under a wool blanket, with a pillow supporting your head.  With dedicated practice you will be able to achieve a mental state of supreme and holy emptiness interrupted at times by experiences that defy logic, time, and space.”  How attractive!  We would lie down as instructed and attempt unsuccessfully to empty our minds and have visions. We would feel both guilty for wasting time, especially with such a strange practice, and yet righteous at our efforts at pleasing our teacher. We would toss and turn impatiently, wondering how to make the true sleep experience happen.  We would visualize the experience and pretend we had accomplished it, trying to look and act renewed even though we did not feel that way.  Perhaps there would be impulses to proselytize and expound in an attempt to convince ourselves of sleep’s joy. And, we would look enviously at the master snoozing away.  We would notice how genuinely refreshed and happy he looked when he awakened and would bow deeply to him with reverence and longing.

I believe that while quite different from sleep, sitting in stillness is just as natural and healthy. As with sleeping – the bed, darkness, preparations, and habits – there are tips which help us to sit quietly until alert stillness becomes both as commonplace and profound as sleeping. Those tips do not include such inhuman requirements as emptying our minds, or being detached, or being self-less.  Nor do they include contradictory notions like “meditation in motion”. Doing things with concentration may be wonderfully satisfying, but it is not the practice of sitting in stillness.  In fact sitting is the foundation of concentrated activity, not the reverse as implied by “meditation in motion”.   Therefore, we look instead at very concrete, doable instructions.  We look toward strengthening and aligning our bodies to great efficiency in erect, wakeful – and painless – posture, choosing the proper sort of cushion or the proper sort of chair, settling our nerves with smooth, steady breathing, and easing the churn of our thoughts with thoughts that are calming.  Above all we would include a persistent reminder of the value of patience, plain and simple.  All appropriate instruction, if different, is no more sophisticated than what we would give to someone who had never slept.  Once we have then been able to sit quietly for a while, stillness becomes customary.  If at times it is still difficult, it feels, as with sleep, quite natural and is a sufficient end in itself.  It needs no selling or explanation.  We are no longer embarrassed, covetous, or frustrated by the practice.

 And then we begin to take great satisfaction sitting in public, especially among other sitters in stillness.  We find such community inexplicably primal and simple. It is such a welcome amalgam of solitude and sociability.  We find that stillness breeds stillness.  We find that stillness breeds stillness breeds peace.  We stretch our legs as a group at fixed intervals, so as not to disturb one another by doing so individually at odd times.  The intervals are signaled by a designated time keeper by a single clap of hands, and then we all stand up and slowly walk single file once around the room to refresh our wakefulness.  There are no special bells.  At the end of a session we just say, “Thanks,” because we feel grateful.  There is no need to bow.  No need for “Namaste.”  No need to thank Guru or Buddha.  No professionals; no fees. We are just ordinary people, unaffiliated with any particular tradition or religion; ordinary people in the silent company of one another. We begin with the timekeeper saying, “Let’s sit”, then sit in ordinary stillness, and end with everyone saying, “Thanks.”  We chat a little and then go home.

 Be assured that it is not necessarily wrong to surround your sitting practice with liturgies, mythologies, philosophies, thangkas, and tea, any more than it is wrong to sleep in a four post mahogany bed, on a memory mattress, your family on the wall, and Debussy in your ear, but the sleep itself will be no different than that of a soldier on a cot and the sitting itself will be no different than that of a hawk on a wire.  Adornment of either practice may be gracious, comforting, and lovely, and that is what it is.  Adornment.  Make no mistake about this.  These are matters of taste, not meaning.  Nice, but not defining.  That said, there would be little criticism of foreign approaches.  With enough perspective the trappings of meditation traditions are generally not damaging, and may indeed provide useful emotional support.  It is our nature as human beings to embellish what we appreciate.  But we must never lose sight of the simple core within that embellishment, for it really does suffice.

Now that the points of meditation’s natural simplicity and also of the abundance of tips contributing to its success have been made, we may set aside its similarity to sleep.  The differences are considerable.  Most people need to sleep around eight hours out of twenty-four, while considerable benefit is felt from sitting in stillness only half an hour a day.  More importantly, sleep takes us to a realm of experience totally different from wakefulness, whereas sitting in stillness subtly clarifies an existing state of wakefulness.  Sometimes we overlook this difference and have falsely dramatic expectations of our sitting practice.   Sleep is down time to restore the physical and psychological machinery of our life.  Wakeful stillness is up time to encounter the reality of ourselves and surroundings in all of its mystery, to which we then respond quite naturally and spontaneously with appreciation, then affection, then gratitude and the impulses of kindness.  Our good behavior need not be instructed and deliberate.  It need not be a product of much effort and fraught with confusion and frustration. It can flow effortlessly as a result of our stillness.  Sleep restores our vitality, and sitting in stillness restores our sanity -- our sense of wonder and our compassion.  Obviously sleep has priority as a practice.  We die without vitality.  But without appreciation and compassion, we also die.  It is a much slower, less direct death to be sure, but death nonetheless by war, by the fouling of our environment, by chronic, jittery feelings of panic, by avoidable illnesses, by loneliness and a grinding lack of affection for one another, and by the emptiness of not knowing who we are and what we should do.   “Get more sleep,” the doctor says. “and you will heal.”  And she might add as well, “Practice being wide awake without moving, and you and the rest of us will thrive.”  Give it a try and see for yourself.



     The Sankalpa Counter

   (Hub-style 10,000)

                                           The Long Journey
There is a very long, sweet journey called purashcharana.  It is an inward journey and yet as tangible, deliberate, and dependable as the hard packed soil of a good foot path.  Each step embraces the present moment ever more closely, and identifies us more viscerally with its miracle and essential kindness.  This is a way of stillness.

Purashcharana begins with a sankalpa, a very long term resolve, heart driven, to sit in stillness cumulatively for a very long time.  Purashcharana  is measured, not in hours, but in repetitions of attentive breath.  1,000 breaths, 10,000 breaths, … perhaps even 1,000,000 attentive breaths.

                                          Profound Instruments

A purashcharana progress record is important. It is comforting to know how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.  The most basic instrument for this task is a mala, the stoutly strung and knotted strand of 108 beads and one larger, more ornate meru bead with a celebratory tassel.  With each transition of breath, we grip and pass a bead with thumb and fourth finger – a nugget of moment.  This manipulation of beads begins and ends at the meru bead. The mala is then flipped and the journey resumed in the direction toward which it began.  One round of the mala  remembers 54 inhalations and 54 exhalations  (conveniently recorded as 100 breaths) – but that is just 5-10 minutes in a sankalpa of many months or even years. I have developed a secondary counter/recorder for such longer journeys.  The Sankalpa Counter is a small hand-held abacus designed specifically for those who sit in formal stillness.  The Counter is portable, its manipulation is unobtrusive, and no amount of jostling will upset its record. Each time a round of the mala is completed, the sitter simply moves a bead on the Counter. Whenever desired, the Counter can be easily read by feel; up to 10,000 mala rounds (1,000,000 breaths).


The hub-style Counter has four strands of beads radiating from a wooden disc (“hub”).  Each strand records a different magnitude. Strand # 1 has 10 beads larger than those of the other strands and  is terminated by a large fixed bead and tassel. It will be used the most because each of the mov
able beads on Strand #1 represent one  round of a mala. The strand’s total value is 10 mala rounds.

The other 3 strands (#2, 3, and 4) are clustered across from Strand #1, and each has 10 uniformly smaller beads than those on Strand #1.  Strand #2 is terminated by a single small, fixed bead and has no tassel. Each bead here represents 10 of the beads on Strand #1 (or, 10 mala rounds).  Its total value is 100 mala rounds. Strand #3 is terminated by two fixed beads and each bead represents 10 of the beads on Strand #2 (or, 100 mala rounds) for a total of 1,000 mala rounds for that strand.  Strand #4 is terminated by 3 fixed beads and each moveable bead represents 10 of the beads on strand #3 (or, 1,000 mala rounds) for a total of 10,000 mala rounds for that strand – or a grand total of 1,000,000 attentive breaths.

The count begins with all moveable beads pushed away from the hub to their terminating beads.  After completing a mala round, a bead on Strand #1 is pushed sequentially to the hub. When all the beads on Strand #1 are at the hub, a single bead on Strand #2 is moved to the hub, and all the beads on Strand #1 are then pushed back one at a time to the terminating bead. (Trying to push more than one bead at a time could damage the counter.)

This process continues with the completion of one strand’s beads moving to the hub and a single bead on the next magnitude strand being moved  toward the hub - and all of the contributing strand beads being moved back toward their terminating beads.  At the completion of the purashcharana all the beads on Strand #4 will be at the hub, and the other beads will be at their terminating beads.

The colors of the beads are darker with each successive strand.  This is a visual reminder of their relative weighting. The terminating beads are all of the same lightest color.

The stringing of the Sankalpa Counter is such that beads do not slip easily on their own. You will be pleasantly surprised at how well they hold their place regardless of jostling.  With familiarity you will be able to read the record of your purashcharana quickly and easily both visually and tactiley.

Any sankalpa that is less than the Counter’s limit of 1,000,000 attentive breaths is also quite valuable.  You determine the goals, both the count and what is to be counted. Whatever your sankalpa, the Sankalpa Counter, like your mala, will help ground and solidify your practice of stillness, and enter into the matrix of your gratitude.



Guidelines‌ ‌for‌ ‌‌Stillness‌ ‌Group‌‌ ‌Facilitators‌ ‌

There‌ ‌are‌ ‌many‌ ‌opportunities‌ ‌these‌ ‌days‌ ‌for‌ ‌instruction‌ ‌in‌ ‌meditation.‌  ‌Many‌ ‌meditation‌ ‌based‌ ‌religious‌ ‌groups‌ ‌offer‌ ‌guidance.‌  ‌More‌ ‌novel‌ ‌approaches‌ ‌include‌ ‌gong‌ ‌therapy,‌ ‌yoga‌ ‌assisted‌ ‌meditation,‌ ‌or‌ ‌psychotherapeutic‌ ‌packages‌ ‌like‌  ‌Mindfulness-based‌ ‌Stress‌ ‌Reduction.‌ ‌Assistance‌ ‌is‌ ‌delivered‌ ‌in‌ ‌classroom‌ ‌settings‌ ‌and‌ ‌religious‌ ‌halls,‌ ‌through‌ ‌lectures,‌ ‌workshops,‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌individually‌ ‌through‌ ‌books,‌ ‌blogs,‌ ‌videos,‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌wide‌ ‌variety‌ ‌of‌ ‌apps.‌  ‌Everyone‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌opportunities‌ ‌follows‌ ‌two‌ ‌premises:‌  ‌One,‌ ‌people‌ ‌hoping‌ ‌to‌ ‌meditate‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌benefited‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌particular,‌ ‌specialized‌ ‌set‌ ‌of‌ ‌skills,‌ ‌usually‌ ‌rather‌ ‌difficult‌ ‌to‌ ‌master‌ ‌and‌ ‌usually‌ ‌uniquely‌ ‌better‌ ‌than‌ ‌those‌ ‌offered‌ ‌by‌ ‌another‌ ‌group.‌   ‌The‌ ‌second‌ ‌premise‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌inspiration‌ ‌as‌ ‌offered‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌example‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌teacher’s‌ ‌personality‌ ‌or‌ ‌their‌ ‌rhetoric‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌major‌ ‌boon‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌student’s‌ ‌progress.‌ ‌

 ‌Without‌ ‌wishing‌ ‌to‌ ‌argue‌ ‌against‌ ‌the‌ ‌truth‌ ‌or‌ ‌value‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌premises,‌ ‌for‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌in‌ ‌most‌ ‌cases‌ sound,‌ ‌‌Stillness‌ ‌Groups‌‌  ‌take‌ ‌a‌ ‌different‌ ‌approach.‌  ‌We‌ ‌believe‌ ‌that‌ ‌‌the‌ ‌essential‌ ‌activity‌ ‌within‌ ‌every‌ ‌meditation‌ ‌approach‌ ‌is‌ ‌simply‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌still‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌period‌ ‌of‌ ‌time‌.‌  ‌By‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌mean‌ ‌‌structural‌‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌‌--‌ ‌ie,‌ ‌not‌ ‌using‌ ‌voluntary‌ ‌muscles‌ ‌of‌ ‌movement.‌  ‌Postural‌ ‌muscles‌ ‌remain‌ ‌active,‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌involuntary‌ ‌activities‌ ‌of‌ ‌body‌ ‌function,‌ ‌including‌ ‌cognitive‌ ‌and‌ ‌emotional‌ ‌activity‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌brain.‌   ‌Therefore,‌ ‌while‌ ‌some‌ ‌meditation‌ ‌approaches‌ ‌involve‌ ‌specific‌ ‌mental‌ ‌activity‌ ‌--‌ ‌a‌ ‌euphoria‌ ‌producing‌ ‌activity,‌ ‌a‌ ‌devotional‌ ‌activity,‌ ‌a‌ ‌distancing,‌ ‌observational‌ ‌activity,‌ ‌or‌ ‌a‌ ‌relaxing‌ ‌activity‌ ‌--‌ ‌the‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group‌‌ ‌requires‌ ‌only‌ ‌physically‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌still.‌  ‌What‌ ‌the‌ ‌participant‌ ‌chooses‌ ‌to‌ ‌think‌ ‌or‌ ‌feel‌ ‌while‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌still‌ ‌is‌ ‌their‌ ‌business,‌ ‌and‌ ‌no‌ ‌one‌ ‌guides‌ ‌them‌ ‌from‌ ‌such‌ ‌independence.‌   ‌There‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌judgement‌ ‌and‌ ‌beyond‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌tips‌ ‌for‌ ‌physically‌ ‌positioning‌ ‌oneself‌ ‌comfortably‌ ‌or‌ ‌reducing‌ ‌the‌ ‌annoyances‌ ‌of‌ ‌sleepiness,‌ ‌digestion,‌ ‌or‌ ‌fidgetiness,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌nothing‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌taught.‌  ‌The‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌group‌ ‌premise‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌essence‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌meditative‌ ‌approaches‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌habit‌ ‌of‌ ‌simple‌ ‌structural‌ ‌stillness.‌  ‌From‌ ‌that‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌other‌ ‌goals‌ ‌and‌ ‌skills‌ ‌may‌ ‌take‌ ‌the‌ ‌participant‌ ‌toward‌ ‌an‌ ‌appropriate‌ ‌tradition,‌ ‌but‌ ‌our‌ ‌defining‌ ‌aim‌ ‌is‌ ‌to‌ ‌support‌ ‌structural‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌all.‌  ‌We‌ ‌make‌ ‌no‌ ‌claims‌ ‌about‌ ‌life‌ ‌after‌ ‌death,‌ ‌or‌ ‌end‌ ‌states‌ ‌like‌ ‌enlightenment,‌ ‌or‌ ‌about‌ ‌cultivating‌ ‌non-ordinary‌ ‌skills‌ ‌or‌ ‌insights.‌  ‌Rationales‌ ‌for‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌still‌ ‌might‌ ‌include‌ ‌such‌ ‌benefits‌ ‌as‌ ‌dignity,‌ ‌sanity,‌ ‌appreciativeness‌ ‌and‌ ‌compassion,‌ ‌but‌ ‌those‌ ‌are‌ ‌random‌ ‌anecdotal‌ ‌reports‌ ‌and‌ ‌not‌ ‌promises‌ ‌engendering‌ ‌any‌ ‌expectation.‌ ‌

 ‌The‌ ‌other‌ ‌unique‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group‌‌ ‌premise‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌‌community‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌more‌ ‌effective‌ ‌support‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌habit‌ ‌than‌ ‌inspiration.‌  ‌‌Both‌ ‌of‌ ‌our‌ ‌premises‌ ‌preclude‌ ‌the‌ ‌need‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌“qualified”‌ ‌teacher.‌  ‌Or,‌ ‌perhaps‌ ‌more‌ ‌accurately,‌ ‌we‌ ‌consider‌ ‌every‌ ‌participant‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌teacher.‌ ‌There‌ ‌are‌ ‌no‌ ‌ladders‌ ‌of‌ ‌achievement.‌ ‌The‌ ‌participant‌ ‌who‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌practicing‌ ‌for‌ ‌50‌ ‌years‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌better‌ ‌at‌ ‌it‌ ‌than‌ ‌the‌ ‌person‌ ‌who‌ ‌started‌ ‌last‌ ‌month,‌ ‌just‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌person‌ ‌who‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌sleeping‌ ‌every‌ ‌night‌ ‌for‌ ‌50‌ ‌years‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌better‌ ‌at‌ ‌sleeping‌ ‌than‌ ‌the‌ ‌baby‌ ‌in‌ ‌their‌ ‌crib.‌  ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌kind‌ ‌of‌ ‌thing.‌  ‌Structural‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌is‌ ‌just‌ ‌being‌ ‌awake‌ ‌and‌ ‌not‌ ‌moving.‌  ‌That‌ ‌said,‌ ‌just‌ ‌as‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌hope‌ ‌and‌ ‌joy‌ ‌in‌ ‌being‌ ‌inspired‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌fiery‌ ‌sermon‌ ‌or‌ ‌wise dharma‌ ‌talk,‌ ‌a‌ ‌guided‌ ‌meditation,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌words‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌very‌ ‌calm,‌ ‌confident,‌ ‌and‌ ‌articulate‌ ‌speaker,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌hope‌ ‌and‌ ‌joy‌ ‌when‌ ‌we‌ ‌sit‌ ‌together‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group‌.‌  ‌I‌ ‌will‌ ‌not‌ ‌attempt‌ ‌to‌ ‌explain‌ ‌that,‌ ‌but‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌how‌ ‌it‌ ‌seems‌ ‌to‌ ‌be.‌ ‌

 ‌As‌ ‌the‌ ‌weeks‌ ‌go‌ ‌by‌ ‌people‌ ‌begin‌ ‌to‌ ‌know‌ ‌each‌ ‌other.‌  ‌They‌ ‌chat‌ ‌about‌ ‌all‌ ‌sorts‌ ‌of‌ ‌things‌ ‌--‌ ‌
vacations,‌ ‌events,‌ ‌their‌ ‌stories‌ ‌--‌  ‌and‌ ‌not‌ ‌much‌ ‌about‌ ‌matters‌ ‌of‌ ‌practice.‌ ‌They‌ ‌sit‌ ‌for‌ ‌an‌ ‌hour‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌chat‌ ‌another‌ ‌five‌ ‌or‌ ‌ten‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌even‌ ‌more‌ ‌warmly.‌  ‌Week‌ ‌after‌ ‌week‌ ‌they‌ ‌return,‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌bringing‌ ‌a‌ ‌friend‌ ‌to‌ ‌try‌ ‌it‌ ‌out.‌  ‌They‌ ‌say‌ ‌that‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌together‌ ‌like‌ ‌this‌ ‌helps‌ ‌their‌ ‌solitary‌ ‌home‌ ‌practice.‌  ‌When‌ ‌questions‌ ‌come‌ ‌up‌ ‌--‌ ‌especially‌ ‌with‌ ‌new-comers‌ ‌--‌ ‌people‌ ‌give‌ ‌their‌ ‌suggestions.‌  ‌Everyone‌ ‌has‌ ‌their‌ ‌own‌ ‌slant‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌practice.‌  ‌We‌ ‌are‌ ‌all‌ ‌teachers‌ ‌equally.‌ ‌Personally,‌ ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌that‌ ‌community‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌stronger,‌ ‌more‌ ‌durable‌ ‌support‌ ‌than‌ ‌“expertise”‌ ‌and‌ ‌inspiration.‌  ‌Expectation‌ ‌that‌ ‌surrounds‌ ‌inspiration‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌wonderful‌ ‌feeling,‌ ‌but‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌often‌ ‌followed‌ ‌at‌ ‌some‌ ‌point‌ ‌by‌ ‌frustration.‌  ‌Someone‌ ‌talks‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌ease‌ ‌they‌ ‌have‌ ‌found‌ ‌or‌ ‌some‌ ‌sort‌ ‌of‌ ‌deeply‌ ‌felt‌ ‌cosmic‌ ‌revelation.‌  ‌We‌ ‌may‌ ‌then‌ ‌aspire‌ ‌by‌ ‌force‌ ‌of‌ ‌will‌ ‌and‌ ‌intellect‌ ‌to‌ ‌something‌ ‌similar.‌  ‌That‌ ‌is‌ ‌good,‌ ‌but‌ ‌usually‌ ‌the‌ ‌ease‌ ‌or‌ ‌revelation‌ ‌we‌ ‌hope‌ ‌for‌ ‌does‌ ‌not‌ ‌happen,‌ ‌and‌ ‌if‌ ‌it‌ ‌does,‌ ‌the‌ ‌satisfaction‌ ‌is‌ ‌temporary.‌  ‌Life‌ ‌traipses‌ ‌along.‌  ‌We‌ ‌get‌ ‌dejected,‌ ‌our‌ ‌practice‌ ‌falters,‌ ‌or‌ ‌we‌ ‌look‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌next‌ ‌inspiration‌ ‌fix.‌  ‌Community‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌hand‌  ‌is‌ ‌nothing‌ ‌fancy‌ ‌and‌ ‌can‌ ‌always‌ ‌be‌ ‌there‌ ‌just‌ ‌as‌ ‌you‌ ‌expect‌ ‌it.‌  ‌If‌ ‌you‌ ‌probe‌ ‌any‌ ‌meditative‌ ‌group,‌ ‌whether‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌ancient‌ ‌religion‌ ‌or‌ ‌of‌ ‌somebody’s‌ ‌healing‌ ‌workshop,‌ ‌you‌ ‌will‌ ‌always‌ ‌find‌ ‌under‌ ‌all‌ ‌the‌ ‌sparkling‌ ‌practices,‌ ‌the‌ ‌austerities,‌ ‌the‌ ‌reverences,‌ ‌the‌ ‌exotic‌ ‌promises,‌ ‌a‌ ‌practice‌ ‌of‌ ‌simple‌ ‌structural‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌and‌ ‌community.‌  ‌Those‌ ‌are‌ ‌the‌ ‌well‌ ‌springs.‌  ‌Because‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌groups‌ ‌are‌ ‌a‌ ‌particularly‌ ‌unique‌ ‌and‌ ‌effective‌ ‌opportunity.‌ ‌ ‌

 ‌I‌ ‌would‌ ‌like‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌the‌ ‌concept‌ ‌spread.‌  ‌Here‌ ‌are‌ ‌some‌ ‌useful‌ ‌guidelines‌ ‌that‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌basic‌ ‌premises‌ ‌are‌ ‌maintained:‌ ‌ ‌

● Leadership.‌  ‌‌Trained‌ ‌teachers‌ ‌are‌ ‌not‌ ‌required.‌  ‌Facilitators‌ ‌are‌ ‌important,‌ ‌however.‌ ‌
Someone‌ ‌needs‌ ‌to‌ ‌organize‌ ‌the‌ ‌group,‌ ‌making‌ ‌sure‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌an‌ ‌adequate‌ ‌facility‌ ‌in‌ ‌
which‌ ‌to‌ ‌meet‌ ‌comfortably,‌ ‌quietly,‌  ‌and‌ ‌predictably‌ ‌every‌ ‌week;‌ ‌and‌ ‌perhaps‌ ‌get‌ ‌the‌ ‌
word‌ ‌out‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌this‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌through‌ ‌social‌ ‌media,‌ ‌group‌ ‌emails,‌ ‌or‌ ‌a‌ ‌website.‌ ‌
A‌ ‌facilitator‌ ‌also‌ ‌needs‌ ‌to‌ ‌welcome‌ ‌new‌ ‌people,‌ ‌explain‌ ‌the‌ ‌format,‌ ‌keep‌ ‌time‌ ‌and‌ ‌ring‌ ‌a‌ ‌
bell‌ ‌at‌ ‌certain‌ ‌intervals.‌  ‌And‌ ‌keep‌ ‌everything‌ ‌friendly.‌  ‌These‌ ‌duties‌ ‌could‌ ‌be‌ ‌split‌ ‌up‌ ‌
among‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌one‌ ‌facilitator,‌ ‌and‌ ‌certainly‌ ‌there‌ ‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌people‌ ‌willing‌ ‌to‌ ‌fill‌ ‌in‌ ‌
whenever‌ ‌the‌ ‌usual‌ ‌welcomer/time‌ ‌keeper‌ ‌is‌ ‌away.‌  ‌Such‌ ‌duties‌ ‌could‌ ‌rotate‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌
group,‌ ‌but‌ ‌again‌ ‌we‌ ‌seek‌ ‌the‌ ‌simplest,‌ ‌most‌ ‌predictable,‌ ‌least‌ ‌threatening‌ ‌approach‌ ‌
possible.‌ ‌

● Group‌ ‌size.‌ ‌‌A‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group‌ ‌‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌small‌ ‌enough‌ ‌that‌ ‌everyone‌ ‌gets‌ ‌to‌ ‌know‌ ‌
everyone‌ ‌else‌ ‌easily‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌its‌ ‌organization‌ ‌can‌ ‌remain‌ ‌casual,‌ ‌organic,‌ ‌and‌ ‌fluid,‌ ‌
without‌ ‌need‌ ‌of‌ ‌governing boards, committees,‌ ‌by-laws,‌ ‌or‌ ‌formal‌ ‌positions‌ ‌of‌ ‌duty.‌  ‌As‌ ‌a‌ ‌group‌ ‌reaches‌ ‌a‌ ‌
certain‌ ‌less‌ ‌wieldy‌ ‌size,‌  ‌say‌ ‌15‌ ‌attenders‌ ‌at‌ ‌any‌ ‌given‌ ‌week,‌   ‌new‌ ‌groups‌ ‌should‌ ‌form.‌ ‌
Formal‌ ‌membership‌ ‌is‌ ‌unnecessary,‌ ‌nor‌ ‌should‌ ‌there‌ ‌be‌ ‌any‌ ‌sort‌ ‌of‌ ‌attendance‌ ‌
expectation.‌  ‌People‌ ‌attend‌ ‌when‌ ‌it‌ ‌works‌ ‌out‌ ‌for‌ ‌them.‌  ‌The‌ ‌formation‌ ‌of‌ ‌new‌ ‌groups‌ ‌is‌ ‌
also‌ ‌informal.‌  ‌People‌ ‌drift‌ ‌to‌ ‌situations‌  ‌of‌ ‌greatest‌ ‌comfort‌ ‌and‌ ‌convenience.‌  ‌Likewise‌ ‌a‌ ‌community‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌dwindling‌ ‌in‌ ‌size‌ ‌may‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌disband‌ ‌and‌ ‌its‌ ‌remaining‌ ‌attenders‌ ‌scatter‌ ‌to‌ ‌other‌ ‌groups‌ ‌that‌ ‌are‌ ‌flourishing.‌ ‌ ‌

No‌ ‌central‌ ‌organizational‌ ‌body.‌‌  ‌‌Stillness‌ ‌groups‌‌ ‌are‌ ‌simple‌ ‌enough‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌need‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌central‌ ‌organizational‌ ‌body.‌  ‌Trademark‌ ‌branding‌ ‌is‌ ‌unnecessary.‌  ‌As‌ ‌long‌ ‌as‌ ‌hierarchies‌ ‌and‌ ‌power‌ ‌structures‌ ‌are‌ ‌avoided‌ ‌the‌ ‌simple‌ ‌basics‌ ‌of‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌and‌ ‌community‌ ‌will‌ ‌endure‌ ‌in‌ ‌functional‌ ‌consistency.‌ ‌ ‌

No‌ ‌fees‌ ‌or‌ ‌donations.‌ Stillness‌ ‌groups‌‌ ‌should‌ ‌scrupulously‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌any‌ ‌profit‌ ‌motive.‌  ‌No‌ ‌
donations‌ ‌or‌ ‌fees‌ ‌for‌ ‌participants.‌  ‌There‌ ‌are‌ ‌no‌ ‌experts‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌paid,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌entrance‌ ‌of‌ ‌
money‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌situation‌ ‌brings‌ ‌a‌ ‌quantum‌ ‌leap‌ ‌in‌ ‌complexity‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌risk‌ ‌of‌ ‌corruption,‌ ‌
large‌ ‌or‌ ‌small.‌  Not the least of this is the possible exclusion of very poor people who either do not have the money for this kind of thing or feel uncomfortable that they are not supporting the group at the same level that others are. ‌That‌ ‌said‌ ‌there‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌some‌ ‌costs‌ ‌in‌ ‌maintaining‌ ‌a‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group.‌ ‌Usually‌ ‌a‌ ‌facility‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌secured‌ ‌rent‌ ‌free‌ ‌for‌ ‌an‌ ‌hour‌ ‌a‌ ‌week,‌ ‌especially‌ ‌when‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌profit‌ ‌motive.‌ ‌Many‌ ‌organizations‌ ‌see‌ ‌this‌ ‌generosity‌ ‌as‌ ‌an‌ ‌public‌ ‌relations‌ ‌opportunity.‌  ‌Some‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌groups‌‌ ‌may‌ ‌find‌ ‌a‌ ‌member‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌room‌ ‌in‌ ‌their‌ ‌home‌ ‌large‌ ‌enough‌ ‌to‌ ‌accommodate‌ ‌the‌ ‌group.‌  ‌Be‌ ‌sure,‌ ‌though,‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌are‌ ‌easy‌ ‌alternatives‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌house‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌available‌ ‌due‌ ‌to‌ ‌vacations,‌ ‌overnight‌ ‌guests,‌ ‌illness,‌ ‌etc.‌  ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌important‌ ‌that‌ ‌a‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌group‌ ‌meets‌ ‌every‌ ‌week,‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌exception‌ ‌of‌ ‌closures‌ ‌due‌ ‌to‌ ‌
severe‌ ‌weather‌ ‌or‌ ‌national‌ ‌holidays.‌ ‌Other‌ ‌costs,‌ ‌such‌ ‌as‌ ‌maintaining‌ ‌a‌ ‌website‌ ‌or‌ ‌
group‌ ‌emailing‌ ‌program‌ ‌will‌ ‌either‌ ‌be‌ ‌avoided‌ ‌by‌ ‌using‌ ‌other‌ ‌media‌ ‌options‌ ‌or‌ ‌met‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌
dedicated‌ ‌facilitator.‌ ‌ ‌

● Session‌ ‌format.‌  ‌‌The‌ ‌format‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌session‌ ‌is‌ ‌somewhat‌ ‌arbitrary.‌  ‌The‌ ‌one‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌used‌ ‌is‌ ‌
adapted‌ ‌from‌ ‌Soto‌ ‌Zen‌ ‌gatherings‌ ‌I‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌attend.‌  ‌We‌ ‌sit‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌circle‌ ‌facing‌ ‌one‌ ‌another.‌ ‌
We‌ ‌sit‌ ‌for‌ ‌an‌ ‌hour.‌ ‌The‌ ‌hour‌ ‌is‌ ‌broken‌ ‌into‌ ‌three‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌periods:‌  ‌20‌ ‌minutes,‌ ‌15‌ ‌minutes‌,‌ ‌and‌ ‌15‌ ‌minutes.‌  ‌The‌ ‌beginning‌ ‌and‌ ‌end‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌period‌ ‌is‌ ‌signaled‌ ‌by‌ ‌striking‌ ‌a‌ ‌singing‌ ‌
bowl‌ ‌once.‌  ‌(Just‌ ‌as‌ ‌appropriate‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌clap‌ ‌of‌ ‌hands,‌ ‌or‌ ‌a‌ ‌simple‌ ‌statement‌ ‌like,‌ ‌
“Let’s‌ ‌begin”,‌ ‌or‌ ‌“Let’s‌ ‌take‌ ‌a‌ ‌break,”‌ ‌or‌ ‌“Let’s‌ ‌walk,”‌ ‌or,‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌end,‌ ‌“Thanks‌ ‌for‌ ‌being‌ ‌
here.”)‌  ‌Between‌ ‌the‌ ‌periods‌ ‌of‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌we‌ ‌walk‌ ‌clockwise‌ ‌slowly‌ ‌once‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌circle‌ ‌of‌ ‌
seats.‌  ‌People‌ ‌have‌ ‌their‌ ‌own‌ ‌way‌ ‌of‌ ‌walking‌ ‌quietly.‌  ‌I‌ ‌take‌ ‌a‌ ‌step‌ ‌with‌ ‌each‌ ‌new‌  ‌breath‌ ‌
movement,‌ ‌my‌ ‌right‌ ‌hand‌ ‌clapping‌ ‌my‌ ‌left‌ ‌hand‌ ‌into‌ ‌my‌ ‌mid-section.‌ ‌It‌ ‌looks‌ ‌something‌ ‌
like‌ ‌Zen‌ ‌‌kinhin.‌ ‌‌Others‌ ‌walk‌ ‌with‌ ‌exaggerated‌ ‌movements‌ ‌to‌ ‌enhance‌ ‌self-observation‌ ‌
as‌ ‌recommended‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Mindfulness‌ ‌tradition.‌  ‌Such‌ ‌differences‌ ‌do‌ ‌not‌ ‌impact‌ ‌our‌ ‌main‌ ‌
intention‌ ‌very‌ ‌much,‌ ‌which‌ ‌is‌ ‌simply‌ ‌to‌ ‌limber‌ ‌up‌ ‌a‌ ‌bit‌ ‌and‌ ‌refresh‌ ‌our‌ ‌attention.‌  ‌Some‌ ‌
participants‌ ‌choose‌ ‌to‌ ‌remain‌ ‌at‌ ‌their‌ ‌seats,‌ ‌perhaps‌ ‌stretching‌ ‌a‌ ‌little,‌ ‌or‌ ‌just‌ ‌continuing‌ ‌
their‌ ‌sitting.‌  ‌When‌ ‌everyone‌ ‌who‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌walking‌ ‌gets‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌place,‌ ‌we‌ ‌sit‌ ‌down‌ ‌
at‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌time,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌practice‌ ‌resumes.‌  ‌The‌ ‌usual,‌ ‌unregimented‌ ‌period‌ ‌of‌ ‌time‌ ‌for‌ ‌
socializing‌ ‌seems‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌about‌ ‌15‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌before‌ ‌and‌ ‌after‌ ‌sitting.‌ ‌

Avoid‌ ‌captivity.‌   ‌‌While‌ ‌the‌ ‌hour‌ ‌long‌ ‌format‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌standard‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌group‌ ‌‌opportunity,‌ ‌
participants‌ ‌will‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌know‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌can‌ ‌arrive‌ ‌late,‌ ‌leave‌ ‌early,‌ ‌or‌ ‌take‌ ‌breaks‌ ‌from‌ ‌
the‌ ‌group‌ ‌as‌ ‌needed.‌  ‌Sometimes‌ ‌competing‌ ‌obligations‌ ‌require‌ ‌this‌ ‌flexibility,‌ ‌but‌ ‌more‌ ‌
important,‌ ‌there‌ ‌are‌ ‌times‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌practice‌ ‌is‌ ‌unsettling‌ ‌--‌  ‌physical‌ ‌illness,‌ ‌physical‌ ‌
discomfort,‌ ‌excessive‌ ‌anxiety,‌ ‌overwhelming‌ ‌emotional‌ ‌activity‌ ‌--‌ ‌and‌ ‌participants‌ ‌should‌ ‌

How‌ ‌we‌ ‌sit‌ ‌physically.‌  ‌‌As‌ ‌with‌ ‌differences‌ ‌in‌ ‌walking,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌right‌ ‌or‌ ‌wrong‌ ‌way‌ ‌of‌ ‌
sitting.‌  ‌My‌ ‌own‌ ‌preference‌ ‌is‌ ‌to‌ ‌sit‌ ‌balanced‌ ‌and‌ ‌erect‌ ‌with‌ ‌unsupported‌ ‌back;‌ ‌the‌ ‌front‌ ‌
of‌ ‌my‌ ‌body,‌ ‌legs‌ ‌and‌ ‌arms,‌ ‌very‌ ‌relaxed,‌ ‌the‌ ‌back‌ ‌of‌ ‌my‌ ‌body‌ ‌strong‌ ‌and‌ ‌actively‌ ‌
engaged.‌  ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌this‌ ‌enhances‌ ‌the‌ ‌calm,‌ ‌alert‌ ‌quality‌ ‌of‌ ‌my‌ ‌experience.‌  ‌Others,‌ ‌
however,‌ ‌will‌ ‌opt‌ ‌to‌ ‌lean‌ ‌back‌ ‌against‌ ‌the‌ ‌wall‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌chair‌ ‌back‌ ‌if‌ ‌they‌ ‌prefer‌ ‌to‌ ‌sit‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌
chair.‌ ‌Some‌ ‌will‌ ‌spend‌ ‌most‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌hour‌ ‌lying‌ ‌supine‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor.‌  ‌It‌ ‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌
emphasized‌ ‌to‌ ‌new‌ ‌participants‌ ‌that‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌cross‌ ‌legged‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌judged‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌
better‌ ‌than‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌chair.‌  ‌(I‌ ‌prefer‌ ‌the‌ ‌stabilized‌ ‌feeling‌ ‌in‌ ‌my‌ ‌legs‌ ‌when‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌
pressed‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor,‌ ‌but‌ ‌require‌ ‌a‌ ‌blanket‌ ‌folded‌ ‌to‌ ‌just‌ ‌so‌ ‌to‌ ‌keep‌ ‌my‌ ‌hips‌ ‌high‌ ‌enough‌ ‌
to‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌a‌ ‌comfortable‌ ‌alignment‌ ‌in‌ ‌my‌ ‌spine.‌ ‌Others‌ ‌do‌ ‌not‌ ‌find‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor‌ ‌as‌ ‌important‌ ‌
to‌ ‌them.)‌  ‌Sometimes‌ ‌participants‌ ‌will‌ ‌make‌ ‌suggestions‌ ‌if‌ ‌someone‌ ‌appears‌ ‌
uncomfortable‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌they‌ ‌sit,‌ ‌or‌ ‌kneel,‌ ‌but‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌part‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌confident‌ ‌that‌ ‌
people‌ ‌do‌ ‌best‌ ‌on‌ ‌their‌ ‌own‌ ‌in‌ ‌finding‌ ‌ways‌ ‌to‌ ‌meet‌ ‌their‌ ‌needs.‌ ‌

Socializing‌.‌  ‌Before‌ ‌and‌ ‌after‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌in‌ ‌stillness,‌ ‌we‌ ‌chat.‌  ‌While‌ ‌community‌ ‌builds‌ ‌in‌ ‌
stillness,‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌expressed‌ ‌in‌ ‌conversation.‌   ‌As‌ ‌a‌ ‌facilitator‌ ‌you‌ ‌should‌ ‌have‌ ‌people‌ ‌
introduce‌ ‌themselves‌ ‌to‌ ‌new‌ ‌participants‌ ‌briefly.‌  ‌Simply‌ ‌going‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌circle‌ ‌and‌ ‌
giving‌ ‌our‌ ‌names‌ ‌would‌ ‌suffice.‌  ‌Conversations‌ ‌may‌ ‌involve‌ ‌the‌ ‌whole‌ ‌group‌ ‌at‌ ‌times‌ ‌or‌ ‌
break‌ ‌up‌ ‌among‌ ‌smaller‌ ‌groups,‌ ‌and‌ ‌at‌ ‌times‌ ‌it‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌things‌ ‌going‌ ‌by‌ ‌
engaging‌ ‌individuals‌ ‌in‌ ‌various‌ ‌ways‌ ‌that‌ ‌give‌ ‌them‌ ‌confidence‌ ‌and‌ ‌spark‌ ‌the‌ ‌interest‌ ‌of‌ ‌
the‌ ‌group‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌whole.‌  ‌You‌ ‌should‌ ‌also‌ ‌set‌ ‌an‌ ‌example‌ ‌of‌ ‌not‌ ‌engaging‌ ‌in‌ ‌conversations‌ ‌
that‌ ‌are‌ ‌negatively‌ ‌gossipy,‌ ‌or‌ ‌concern‌ ‌matters‌ ‌of‌ ‌politics‌ ‌or‌ ‌other‌ ‌value-based‌ ‌subjects.‌ ‌
Expect‌ ‌(and‌ ‌even‌ ‌hope)‌ ‌that‌ ‌political‌ ‌and‌ ‌spiritual‌ ‌views‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌quite‌ ‌diverse.‌ ‌One‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌
benefits‌ ‌of‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌groups‌  ‌‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌soften‌ ‌differences‌ ‌among‌ ‌people‌ ‌wordlessly‌ ‌and‌ ‌
can‌ ‌contribute‌ ‌much‌ ‌to‌ ‌social‌ ‌harmony.‌ ‌

Personal‌ ‌boundaries.‌‌  ‌Do‌ ‌nothing‌ ‌that‌ ‌either‌ ‌encourages‌ ‌or‌ ‌discourages‌ ‌relationships‌ ‌
among‌ ‌participants.‌  ‌Such‌ ‌may‌ ‌develop,‌ ‌but‌ ‌respect‌ ‌boundaries‌ ‌and‌ ‌do‌ ‌not‌ ‌share‌ ‌
personal‌ ‌information‌ ‌(especially‌ ‌contact‌ ‌information)‌ ‌without‌ ‌the‌ ‌person’s‌ ‌permission.‌ ‌
Privacy‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌matter‌ ‌of‌ ‌safety‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌comfort.‌  ‌In‌ ‌general,‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌flirting‌ ‌or‌ ‌bantering‌ ‌
comments,‌ ‌however‌ ‌harmless‌ ‌and‌ ‌engaging‌ ‌they‌ ‌may‌ ‌seem‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌time,‌ ‌as‌ ‌their‌ ‌
effect‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌unexpectedly‌ ‌threatening‌ ‌or‌ ‌offensive,‌ ‌and‌ ‌divisive‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌group.‌  ‌Your‌ ‌
example‌ ‌in‌ ‌such‌ ‌matters‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌much‌ ‌more‌ ‌persuasive‌ ‌than‌ ‌any‌ ‌sort‌ ‌of‌ ‌formal‌ ‌
admonitions.‌ ‌ ‌

● Defining‌ ‌the‌ ‌mission.‌‌   ‌As‌ ‌facilitator‌ ‌you‌ ‌will‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌present‌ ‌the‌ ‌mission‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌
group.‌ ‌‌This‌ ‌has‌ ‌already‌ ‌been‌ ‌fairly‌ ‌well‌ ‌described,‌ ‌however,‌ ‌you‌ ‌may‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌remind‌ ‌
participants‌ ‌that‌ ‌all‌ ‌meditation/spiritual‌ ‌traditions‌ ‌(or‌ ‌the‌ ‌absence‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌meditation/spiritual‌ ‌
tradition)‌ ‌are‌ ‌welcome.‌ ‌The‌ ‌use‌ ‌of‌ ‌malas‌ ‌and‌ ‌rosaries‌ ‌during‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌are‌ ‌acceptable.‌ ‌
Anything‌ ‌we‌ ‌do‌ ‌along‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌simple‌ ‌sitting‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌disruptive‌ ‌is‌ ‌acceptable.‌ ‌Also,‌ ‌
while‌ ‌this‌ ‌has‌ ‌never‌ ‌been‌ ‌much‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌issue‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌stillness‌ ‌groups‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌led,‌ ‌the‌ ‌group‌ ‌
should‌ ‌know‌ ‌that‌ ‌our‌ ‌purpose‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌to‌ ‌function‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌support‌ ‌group.‌  ‌Problem‌ ‌solving‌ ‌
around‌ ‌delicate‌ ‌issues‌ ‌requires‌ ‌facilitators‌ ‌to‌ ‌have‌ ‌certified‌ ‌professional‌ ‌skills,‌ ‌and‌ ‌for‌ ‌
the‌ ‌group‌ ‌to‌ ‌abide‌ ‌by‌ ‌more‌ ‌specialized‌ ‌kinds‌ ‌of‌ ‌restrictions.‌  ‌Moreover,‌ ‌the‌ ‌dynamics‌ ‌of‌ ‌
an‌ ‌issue‌ ‌focused‌ ‌support‌ ‌group‌ ‌may‌ ‌ultimately‌ ‌sabotage‌ ‌the‌ ‌safe‌ ‌and‌ ‌comfortable‌ ‌feelings‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌group.‌  ‌Also,‌ ‌we‌ ‌do‌ ‌not‌ ‌want‌ ‌participants‌ ‌to‌ ‌attend‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌an‌ ‌expectation‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌will‌ ‌get‌ ‌help‌ ‌with‌ ‌personal‌ ‌problems.‌  ‌Let‌ ‌healing‌ ‌happen‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌natural‌ ‌process‌ ‌of‌ ‌stillness.‌  ‌Keep‌ ‌the‌ ‌tone‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌group‌ ‌empathetic,‌ ‌but‌ ‌also‌ ‌up-beat.‌  ‌Listening‌ ‌is‌ ‌very‌ ‌good;‌ ‌advice‌ ‌much‌ ‌less‌ ‌so. ‌ ‌

Instruction.‌  ‌‌As‌ ‌a‌ ‌facilitator‌ ‌remember‌ ‌the‌ ‌premises‌ ‌of‌ ‌‌stillness‌ ‌groups‌.‌  ‌‌Stillness‌ ‌
teaches‌ ‌stillness.‌‌
‌The‌ ‌group‌ ‌members‌ ‌may‌ ‌instruct‌ ‌each‌ ‌other‌ ‌in‌ ‌various‌ ‌ways,‌ ‌but‌ ‌the‌ ‌
essence‌ ‌of‌ ‌instruction‌ ‌is‌ ‌stillness.‌ ‌The‌ ‌teaching‌ ‌does‌ ‌not‌ ‌emanate‌ ‌from‌ ‌a‌ ‌single‌ ‌person.‌ ‌
The‌ ‌depth‌ ‌of‌ ‌such‌ ‌instruction‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌the‌ ‌depth‌ ‌of‌ ‌inspired‌ ‌truth,‌ ‌but‌ ‌rather‌ ‌the‌ ‌warmth‌ ‌of‌ ‌
community‌ ‌in‌ ‌sharing‌ ‌stillness.‌ ‌ ‌

 ‌Stillness‌ ‌Groups‌‌ ‌are‌ ‌profound‌ ‌by‌ ‌their‌ ‌simplicity,‌ ‌powerful‌ ‌both‌ ‌in‌ ‌providing‌ ‌personal‌ ‌satisfaction‌ and‌ ‌social‌ ‌harmony.‌ ‌I‌ ‌hope‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌group‌ ‌--‌ ‌or‌ ‌start‌ ‌a‌ ‌group‌ ‌--‌ ‌actively‌ ‌facilitating‌ ‌or‌ ‌simply‌ ‌offering‌ ‌the‌ ‌precious‌ ‌gift‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌stillness.‌ ‌ ‌

 ‌                                                                   ***‌ ‌

 ‌For‌ ‌more‌ ‌information‌ ‌ or free promotional assistance contact:‌ ‌

 ‌Jeff‌ ‌Wright‌  ‌MA,‌ ‌E-RYT500‌ ‌
peopleyoga@centurylink.net‌ ‌
www.wayofstillness.com‌ ‌ ‌