Before and After STILL/WILD
I'm always fascinated by before and after pictures of radical, physical transformations, like this one of my friend Danielle Mitchell (ironman, physician, congressional candidate - read more about her below). If you've ever gone from out of shape to physically strong, you know how life-changing the experience is (assuming you got fit in a safe and healthy way). When I was in really great shape a few years ago, I was amazed at how utterly empowering it felt to walk around in my strong body. I felt graceful and capable. I moved well, slept well and, most importantly, I was able to contribute so much more... The transformation changed the way I moved through life.
Would that there was a picture to demonstrate the "before and after" of one's STILL/WILD experience, which offers up an even more profound transformation, in that it is an inner as opposed to an outer one. I've experienced that sort of transformation too, and I can tell you that moving from inner torment (either vague or acute) to interior peace is even more life-changing than moving from out of shape to fit and strong.
Transformation of any kind requires tremendous commitment and discipline. But here's the thing - why not? Why not put in the time and effort required to experience a radical transformation, both inside and out? Why settle for anything less than your version of Arete? (Arete ærətiː/; Greek: ἀρετή excellence of any kind; fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.)
To that end, it seems important to point out that not every fitness endeavor leads to a chiseled body or improved strength. In that same vein, not every meditation practice leads to interior peace by way of "interior purification," as Thomas Keating would say. (Read more about that seemingly ambiguous idea HERE.) There are as many ways of meditating as there are ways of getting fit, and it's important to know what you want out of your training or practice, and to then train or practice in a way that enables you to meet your particular goals. If your goal is physical strength, you have to do more than a traditional body building routine, for instance. If your goal is psychic health, you have to do more than a concentrative or relaxing form of meditation.
A "Still" practice, as I have defined it, is most closely akin to the practice of Centering Prayer in that it is a method designed to awaken one to the transformative process of grace. As a reminder, my STILL/WILD website and book, INTO THE WILDERNESS (which you can read for free, HERE) can help you find your way into this practice. But there are other practitioners who know infinitely more about the practice than I do. Thomas Keating and his book Open Mind, Open Heart is the definitive book on contemplative prayer, and I can't recommend it enough, if you speak and/or can handle the thoroughly Christocentric language.
Links below, with the usual caveat: Read my book and call on me for coaching if that seems helpful, but recognize that beyond some simple instruction (HERE) you don't need me, Keating, or anyone else to find your way into the Stillness. You just need to get Still. 20 minutes once, preferably twice, a day. (That said, do find your way to Fr. Keating's book eventually.)
Learn more about STILL/WILD in general HERE.
Learn more about Centering Prayer HERE. (Note the CP tradition is a Christian one, and the language, of course, reflects that.)
For more paths into the STILLNESS from an eastern perspective, go HERE.
Peace and wild hope,
Danielle Mitchell, for the record, is our resident hero. Good friend to many, Dr. Danielle is the chief executive officer of The Chattanooga Sports Institute and Center for Health, an ironman several times over and, most recently, a valiant congressional candidate. (She lost, but she put in a good fight and managed to educate a lot of people in the process.) She recently had very serious surgery, though it's hard to tell. She's already up and around, singing with her band and challenging her neighbor (who is currently two weeks post-op from his own surgery) "to a snail-pace rehab walking race around our block." The inspiration keeps coming. Read more about Danielle HERE.