Cultivating Stillness


Being still seems like the most easy, natural thing in the world, but cultivating that stillness actually takes practice and careful consideration.

Before attending Mark Fortney’s Cultivating Stillness class, I thought meditation meant sitting still for 15 to 30 minutes and trying to stop yourself from thinking of all your worries and things to do. I’d tried this before, but couldn’t figure out how I could ever reach a true meditative state. Especially as someone who constantly operates by listing what to do next and making plans, how could I ever shut off my mind?

Fortney taught our class that meditation requires watching your thoughts move through your mind rather than focusing on any one or trying to eliminate them altogether. If done correctly, this might feel like your thoughts are a waterfall. By allowing yourself to sit comfortably, breathe calmly through your nose, and begin to watch your thoughts, you’ve begun to meditate. One phrase Fortney said that encompasses the practice of meditation is “Body like a mountain, breath like the wind, mind like the clouds.”

To try it at home, follow these simple steps:

  • Shake out your body and find a seated position that is upright, yet comfortable. Your legs should be open and you shouldn’t be in any pain.
  • Begin focusing on your breathing in order to slow it down. Make sure to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, if you can, and let the oxygen expand your abdomen rather than your lungs.
  • Watch each thought as it moves through your head, but don’t focus or try to ignore any one.

Once you’ve discovered the best way for yourself to be still, it’s time to practice. Ultimately, this is the most important part of meditation. Like owning a dog, meditation will always be a comfort to you, but the more you spend time and take care of it, the more you’ll love it.

“You’re going to love a dog no matter what,” Fortney said, “but if it’s trained you’ll enjoy it more.”

He also said it’s appropriate to think of meditation like exercising a muscle. If you keep up with it, you’ll have a strengthened muscle that will help you better handle the daily ups and downs of life.

I left Fortney’s class ready to try meditation again and hopefully to keep up with it. Even when everything is going great in life, it’s an unfortunate certainty that we can count on being let down or disappointed in some way. When this happens, it’s so easy to feel lost or out of control. Meditation doesn’t fix all of our problems, but it’s a sure way to naturally help deal with them.

Fortney said he teaches the Cultivating Stillness class to help raise awareness about the power of Chinese Medicine.

“I wanted to do this class to help people understand,” he said. “People only learn the basis of Western medicine, but Chinese medicine really is a whole system for taking care of your health.”

Register for Mark Fortney’s next classes, Chinese Medicine: Numerology, Wednesday March 29 and Chinese Medicine: The Book of Changes, about the I-Ching, on Wednesday, April 26. Both will be held at the Cohn School from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

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