Find your stillness

I’m afraid of heights…so, naturally, I took a hot air balloon ride last week (a surprise part of the Starfish Retreat I attended).

Before I went up, I admit I thought about hot air balloon rides much like my brother described:

“I’ve always wanted to go up in a balloon, but I thought they always tangled in power lines and caught fire and all the passengers plunged to the ground in flames.  I guess I had the wrong idea…”

Hmm. well then.

Flame in balloonI’m happy to report there was no plunging to the ground, the flames all stayed within the contained balloon-lifting-flame-thingie and there were no tangled power lines.

Although there were a few moments of pilot angst (or maybe it was just mine?) as he radioed the ground chase crew: “The power lines… are they perpendicular to me?  copy that.  COPY THAT?!?  NICK, PAY ATTENTION TO ME… ARE THE POWER LINES PERPENDICULAR TO ME?!?!”   Thank God they were, apparently.

full weight on

I’m joking around here, but make no mistake — this was serious business.  In the pre-flight briefing, the pilot not so much asked as told us to put down our cameras so we wouldn’t miss his instructions… and although he was personable, it was clear this was not a time for frivolity (so I stopped talking about body bags and updating my will).

Then there was the ground crew of boy-men (mid-20s?) who were 10000% focused on the pilot’s instructions at all times.  Direct eye contact, instant reactions as if there was an actual physical connection between his words and their actions (picture 4 guys diving to a full-body hang onto the basket side before the pilot could even finish the command “FULL WEIGHT ON!”)

Then we lifted off and I got one of the biggest surprises — and treats — of my life: pure, complete, unfiltered stillness.

hot air balloon experience

Never before in my life have I experienced such a clear and complete physical representation of utter peace.

Maybe it had such an impact because I expected something so different and was braced for a ship-like rocking (nope, didn’t happen).  And because part of me figured I’d be curled up in a ball on the basket floor battling a very real fear-of-heights panic  (nope, didn’t happen…athough I did get a little jello-legged for the first couple minutes).

All I know is that the stillness was so huge and gentle and all-encompassing that it shifted something within me.   This was an outer stillness, yet it soaked right into the physical core of me.  I think that for a few moments I experienced what yogic traditions call a oneness with the universe, a lack of separation between me and everything else.  Everything, including me, simply WAS the stillness.

Profound?  Oh yes it was.  Still is, actually.  Because when you get such an exquisitely pure taste of stillness — within the midst of movement, nonetheless! —  you experience God… within you, outside of you, even AS you.sunset from balloon

“Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form.”

“It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.”
– Eckhart Tolle

Transform the world?  Oh yeah…stillness is a big deal.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
– Hermann Hesse

It doesn’t take a hot air balloon to find your stillness (although I admit it does help!).  In the quiet of the early morning dawn, the late day dusk, the appreciation of the waterfall of a child’s laughter… so many places you can find your stillness.

“In stillness the world is restored.”
Lao Tzu.

Find your still places, and go there…again and again…  Restore yourself.  Restore the world.  (Thank you).


  1. Judah Kurtz said,

    December 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I really enjoyed this one. I too am terrified of heights, but this makes me want to give a balloon ride a go. I actually ended up reading your post aloud to my honey. Thank you as always for your love and light!

    • Starla J. King said,

      December 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      oh Judah… what a LOVELY comment!!! (give your honey a squeeze for me:) ).

      Yeah, when we first lifted off and started getting higher and higher I was all YIKES but the basket is so solid (and you can’t see thru the floor of it… phew) and it’s all so still that the fear steps to the background.

      Truly amazing… I hope you get a chance to experience this!

      love you JK

  2. December 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “…Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
    Starla, how neat that you experienced God through the stillness of a hot air balloon ride… I have experienced something similar while scuba diving, as the stillness underwater spoke to me in the deep. There is only the sound of my own breath. You can’t really communicate with anyone else (in human form) while you are diving, so it’s the perfect place to commune with the I AM “that is deeper than name and form.”

    • Starla J. King said,

      December 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Deb, that’s it exactly!! xo

  3. Hope OKeeffe said,

    December 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    another fear of heights (more fear of falling, I think) person that you might, perhaps, have convinced. Stillness….mmm

    • Starla J. King said,

      December 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      yeah Hope… the falling thing… EEEKS. but high-ish, sturdy basket sides and HUGE COMFORTING stillness helps sooo much. do it, do it!

  4. Steve said,

    December 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    *, it’s great to be quoted for such erudition!

    I feel the stillness when I’m running a marathon or riding bike really hard uphill. Scuba diving has some parallels, somehow different though. Lights out on a night dive does lead to some strange feelings, not exactly restful though given being on the brink of panic.

    • Starla J. King said,

      December 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Svn, you are a veritable plethora of blog-worthy quotes!

      I love that you mentioned the stillness in the motion of exercise — such a contrast that we wouldn’t normally think of as stillness, yet I get it… yes, yes, that stillness!

      What’s not restful about the brink of panic???:)

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