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This piece was recently published in "Rabbit, Rabbit."

The implausibility of stillness

Nathalie Brilliant



A transition implies movement. The etymology of the word refers to transire, meaning to “go across.” A transition refers to a shift from one place to another  - a going. When in the one place, does stagnancy occur? Or does the one place consist of microcosmic transitions – psychological and/or embodied:

I move from downstairs to upstairs – The body transitions from one floor to another. Movement transpires.

I decide to make bacon and coffee for breakfast – My brain undergoes a transition of thought from no idea towards an idea of breakfast to a final decision for breakfast.

The question I pose is, when are we not transitioning? Are we ever not? And does stillness exist?

I perused the definition for stillness, which defines it as “not moving or making a sound.” Thus, the definition includes aspects of the physical act of remaining still in the body and the phenomenon of silence.

Silence does not naturally exist within the world. Within the confines of a fabricated anechoic chamber, silence can be found, but is supposedly so intensely hard on the ears and mind of a human it would drive the person insane to stand to be inside of it. According to the Wikipedia definition of an anechoic chamber, the word breaks apart into  - “an-echoic, meaning non-reflective, non-echoing or echo free”[1] room that absorbs sound reflections or electromagnetic waves. The room is a barrier for any kind of exterior noise. Thus, “the combination of both aspects stimulates a quiet open-space of infinite dimension.”[2]

If the notion of silence is embedded within the notion of stillness, and can only truly be found within this chamber of silence, is stillness feasible? If stillness is impossible, a constant flux of everything is implied; everything must be constantly “going across,” or moving.

I recently watched a documentary on Isaac Newton, quantum theory, string theory, and Einstein. The film presented the notion of string theory, which in a very simple breakdown theorizes that within the protons, neutrons, and electrons that exist within atoms, a string of energy that is in constant movement exists.

If you talk to a yogi, this theory is entirely relevant in real measures – we are all made of energy and spectrums of light. Recall the chakras, denoting specific energetic fields and colors that connote to each part of the body radiating outwardly and inwardly. Stagnancy exists within certain muscles – but not within the whole. Refer to a momentary location and retreat outwards to find it connected to the rest of the body transitioning fluids and blood.  

When something is stagnant – still water, a bridge that does not move, a bone in the body that cannot rotate – it is usually not good. Movement is healthy; movement is stabilizing; movement is good.

I will admit, that there are certain moments where I have experienced some kind of poetic and magnifying stillness. Though, the stillness becomes so intense that my mind begins to melt and things begin to move, somehow, magically, supernaturally, illusory…The times stillness arises is when I am entirely content with all things in the world, and my mind and body are entirely present in the moment.

Presence, an idea and embodied experience that the history of performance art adheres to. Peggy Phalen, an American feminist scholar who wrote extensively on performance art noted, “performance’s only life is in the present.”[3] Peggy Phalen elucidates this idea as a means to determine that performance cannot be repeated because it refers to the moment it is done and when it is re-done, or documented in some way, it becomes something different. The performance only happens in the moment that it happens due to the dynamics of the space and the time. In the moment of utter presence, awareness to movement is amplified.

I now plan to guide you through a little meditation, as a means to highlight a form of presence that may illuminate an experience of movement through stillness of the mind and body.

While reading these words, imagine your eyes closing. If they were to close, it would most likely be impossible to read these inscribed words on the paper in front of your eyes. An option is to first read the below, and then enact it with your eyes closed. Anyways, fix your eyes on the space in front of you – these words. Allow the things and people that surround your physical space to come into focus. Notice what sits in your foreground, what is close to you on your left, what is close to you on your right and what is far away. Notice the things – objects and people – that are in the distance. Notice the sounds – the sounds that fall closer to you, moving towards the sounds that are farther away. Now bring your attention, your gaze and focus to the words you read in front of you. Allow the rest that surrounds you – the things, people, and the sounds – to slowly to dissolve and come out of focus. Focus on this this this this this this this. Pause. Begin to notice your breath. Notice the rise in your chest as you inhale, and the movement downwards as you exhale. Simply notice your inhalation, and your exhalation. Notice the sound each breath makes. Now as you inhale, pause the breath at the top, and then exhale, pause the breath. Continue doing this at your own pace. If the mind begins to wander away from the breath, simply bring it back to the breath. Allow your thoughts to come and go, like the moving wind, a river. The river never stops moving. If the water encounters a rock it swiftly moves around or across it. Imagine your mind as the water of the river, fluidly flowing. Do not judge your thoughts. Simply notice the thought as a thought and label the thought as a thought. Connect back to the breath. Now bring your focus to the space between your two eyes. This space is called the third eye. Imagine a luminous white light beaming from this space connecting you to the sky. Follow the light outward and then inward, through your forehead, down the back of your head, down your throat and down the back of your spine. Breathe. Do this for as long as you wish. Attempt for 3 minutes at first, slowly adding more time or maybe remove your attachment to notions of time and simply sit and do this for a duration that feels comfortable.

Within this meditation, movement of the mind prevails. There are moments when stillness clings to the emanating light I mentioned above. Yet, this stillness embodies the light; light goes across. Light is not still. Stillness and presence within the mind and body reveal a conscious acceptance of movement externally and internally and the connection between. Hence, we live in a constant state of transitions. The space between the transitions, convey a pause. Though a pause, that is made up of micro-transitions that refer to the macro transitions present.




[1] Anechoic chamber. (n.d.). in Wikipedia. Retrieved January 15th, 2016, from

[2] Anechoic chamber. (n.d.). in Wikipedia. Retrieved January 15th, 2016, from

[3] Peggy Phalen, The Ontology of Performance, p. 146.

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