Spring may have sprung but most of my yard is still hidden under inches of snow; this year’s Easter egg hunt will have to be indoors.
For three generations now, our yard has been the site of an annual hunt. One hunt, however, stands out more vividly than the rest.
Our daughter was about four at the time, the only girl, and the youngest of the five children hunting for eggs independently. In those days, my in-laws owned the house and my father-in-law, as he had traditionally done, concocted a riddle to end the hunt. To find the Easter treasure, a sack of golden covered chocolate coins encased in a golden mesh bag, the children needed to solve the riddle.
The moment my father-in-law finished reading the rhyme, the boys ran off, helter-skelter, in search of the treasure.
Our daughter, however, stood stock still, reciting the rhyme, brow furrowed, thinking. Not even the urging of the adults could make her move. When she was ready, and without any help from the hovering, concerned adults, she made her way over to the exact spot where the treasure was hidden. Unfortunately for her, an older cousin saw her. He raced off ahead, getting to the treasure seconds before her.
Unbridled enthusiasm and excitement had powered the boys, while stillness motivated our daughter. She was willing to sit with the mystery of the puzzle in order to discover the unknown.
Stillness is something with which many struggle.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a much loved Buddhist meditation master, remarked that North Americans can’t sit still for five minutes. While he may have spoken more diplomatically than I remember it, it’s hard to argue with his observation.
In a culture that frequently conflates self-worth and busyness – the busier the individual, the more important and worthy – it can be exceedingly difficult to disengage from the helter-skelter of daily life. The lure of social media compounds the problem. Consider that, based on the findings of one study, smartphone users tap, touch, swipe or click their phones, on average, 2,617 times per day. For the heaviest users, that number rises to a whopping 5,427 times per day! Typing thumbs are indicative of the restlessness of the human spirit.
Even when the body is still, the mind fidgets. Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation, points out that the mind is frequently occupied with thoughts of the past or future, rarely resting in the present moment. Using a quotation from the Hebrew psalms, he encourages would-be contemplatives to sit with the words, “Be still and know that I am God”, and then to let the words fade away until only “be” remains.
Stillness of mind or body is not a natural human inclination. We are more inclined towards activity. Seeking, but not necessarily finding, we are on the move, like little boys searching for treasure.
The practice of stillness uncovers that which the hum of activity obscures. Stillness frees the mind, calms the restless soul, and illuminates the divine presence. In stillness, we discover treasure worth seeking.
Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology.