There I sat on a bench made from the scattered stones of a 2500 year-old temple, savoring a locally made pistachio goat-milk ice-cream. In the middle of February. I was off the trodden-paths, in front of a wisely hidden jewel of ancient times: the temple of Aphaea, river nymph of Ancient Greece.
I strolled towards the remains of the temple, my heart still soaring on waves of culinary bliss. And suddenly, it hit me.
So intense that my inner chatter was instantly flattened out. So deep that time stopped and the space around me started to vibrate with a newly-found intensity.
I stood in mid-air for a while, or rather, I floated. And simply listened.
Listened to the stillness.
Something started to stir around me – other humans happening to stroll by – and I thought, I want to stay here. I want to hang out with you, stillness, my friend. Can we just hang out? Me and emptiness, staring at each other on a sunny afternoon, on the esplanade of a forlorn temple.
Me and this nothingness that is so tangible that if I reach out my hand, I will touch it.
And then I remembered. I understood. This intense stillness I felt was not external. It was not somewhere I could go, it was not something that could be given to me from the outside.
It was, very simply, a quality of being. Something all of us can access. Any time.
It is always there for us to find it. For us to turn our attention to it. Even in the bustle of a crowd, the madness of a city, where honking cars compete for air-time with the hustle-bustle of hordes on the move, construction sites, and screaming sirens.
The stillness is still there.
And even when the noise is not external, but caused by a self-inflicted turmoil of emotions, a slippery-slide of utter absorption in our illusory dramas… the stillness is still there.
Sometimes we need to go to a temple, to a place of outer quiet, so that we may find and access this inner quiet that is hidden under layers and layers of inner noise, be they our thoughts, inner dialogues, remnants of things other people have said, and on and on.
And sometimes the outer stillness is such that it acts like a magnet hurling us into the depths of our own inner peace. And when we find ourselves there, stunned with disbelief… we can start to stretch out our tentacles. We can start to feel. To bask in the magnificence of our inner elixir.
So let’s go to the temple. But let’s remember to take the stillness back with us. To keep touching it as we step back into our every day life. Wherever we may be.
Nicole Schwab is author of The Heart of the Labyrinth, a young woman’s poetic journey deep into the Andes, and deep into her mind, in search for her lost connection with Mother Earth and the sacred feminine.