I've been thinking of stillness the last couple of days. In watching the Yoga Cup, the thing I admire the most in the lovely contestants is their stillness.
In a literature class a few years ago, my professor mentioned that great writers manage to make the expression of their prose seem effortless. To describe this, the prof introduced us to the word sprezzatura. According to grammar.about.com, the word was first used by Baldassare Castiglione in 1528: "[T]o avoid affectation in every way possible . . . and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain Sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it."
"Conceal all art." Don't ya just love that? Art here doesn't mean a painting or sculpture; it means something done deliberately and willfully, almost like struggling. Of course, the yogis work very hard to maintain their balance, be still, and achieve the full expression of the posture. But there's something so magical that happens when people achieve mastery at their given talent. The struggling seems to disappear, and all that's left is that radiant beauty. That's sprezzatura. Can you have sprezzatura without stillness of the mind, without quieting the whirlwind of voices and emotions inside? I doubt it. The person is just existing, expressing, and leaving traces of that connection to the moment in the art they create.
On another note, things have been pretty still in my life the last couple of weeks. No complaints--it's great for my mental and physical health, I'm sure, but the fervor that can fuel great blog posts is lacking ;-) I will continue working on achieving that same stillness in the yoga practice. Goodness knows I need more of that!