Stillness and its connection to healing

Stillness and its connection to healing

The quality of stillness can play an essential role in supporting the body to heal whilst going through an illness or disease. Stillness is a quality of being and is our natural state, yet for many of us we have moved so far away from it as our lives are busy, we disconnect from our body and end up living in tension and with stress, which soon becomes our normal way of being such that we forget who and what we innately are.

Yet when we reconnect with the quality of stillness, because it is our natural harmonious state it offers the body an opportunity to rest, recoup, heal and return to homeostasis. Therefore, stillness can become a vital ingredient alongside western medicine as part of an overall healing program.

I personally experienced this whilst going through a diagnosis of breast cancer and in particular my journey with chemotherapy. I developed a relationship with stillness that I had not had in my life for a very long time, perhaps since I was a baby.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. I had been a practitioner of yoga for over a decade before my diagnosis and I had a basic understanding at that point that we are multi-dimensional beings. I knew and had felt that there is a direct correlation between the physical body, thoughts and our emotions. So when I was diagnosed, it led me to a deeper enquiry as to why I had cancer in the first place. I was young, fit and led what I had deemed a healthy lifestyle, after all teaching yoga was my profession and I championed myself on being a picture of health.

There was no breast cancer family history and there was no apparent reason that stood out as to why I had the cancer. At the time I was determined to learn more and understand why. I didn’t believe that I was simply unlucky and I wanted to learn from my diagnosis rather than be a victim to it.

I went through surgery, followed by chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. The treatments that I was given were aggressive given my young age and that the cancer was a Stage 3 (which is a later stage of cancer). Throughout the treatments I continued to question WHY, however it was not until I came across the Teachings of the Ageless Wisdom that I came to understand what the root cause was.

People say that you learn a lot when you are faced with a big life event such as a diagnosis of cancer. I can say that this was true for me too, however my biggest lessons learnt came more from going through chemotherapy. This is because I learnt a lot about my body going through chemo.

Even though I had been practising yoga and teaching it for many years before my diagnosis, I realised during those months of treatment that I had very little, if any connection to my body. I experienced a lot of sickness and there were many days that all I could manage to do was to have a shower and then crawl back into bed. I spent many waking hours lying in bed as I was too ill to do anything else. I would try and distract myself with books and watching movies but there were times when I had very little energy that I soon felt the drain of these activities.

With little else to do and no energy to do anything, I turned my attention to my body.

I had practised many forms of meditation over the years but even these practices didn’t seem to help during those times. What I found myself innately doing, particularly in the early hours of the morning, was resting my attention to be with my body as this was the only way that I found would stop the incessant thought patterns that were haunting me.

“On many of those nights I spent awake in bed I soon learnt that rather than letting my mind wander down the rabbit hole into an abyss, to bring my attention to my body and feel and be with my body. As an example, I would feel my back resting on the bed and as thoughts would kick in I practised bringing my attention back to my body. I would then bring my attention to another area such as my arms or legs and then focus on feeling these parts. Some areas were easy to focus on, others not so. Sometimes I would even choose to let myself feel the areas where there was tension, pain or nausea, which there quite often was. In effect, I was learning to train my attention to be with my body, rather than focussing on random thoughts that were not supporting me.”[1]

What I felt from learning to focus my attention to be with my body was a settlement within that I hadn’t experienced before. From this feeling of settlement, I found that I was conserving my very little energy reserve.

It was a year or so later that I came across Esoteric Yoga, and what I have since learnt is that the quality that I was connecting to during that time was the quality of stillness, and just how deeply healing this quality can be in times of sickness.

I had experienced this first hand during those months of chemotherapy. My newfound connection to stillness felt somewhat familiar yet something that I hadn’t connected to for a long time. The reason for its familiarity, which I have since learnt and have felt for myself, is that stillness is innate and natural within each and every one of us. When we choose to put our attention to be with our body in what we are doing, the body and the being settle into union. This had always been the purpose of yoga and I soon realised that the way I had previously been practising yoga lacked this very important ingredient – stillness.

“The Esoteric Yoga practice was far simpler than anything else I had ever done in any other class before. The practitioner guided me to be with myself and offered an enormous amount of space for me to do this with gentle reminders to come back to my body. The focus of Esoteric Yoga is for our attention to settle into being with the body (conscious presence) and it is through this settlement that we become aware of the being that resides within the body.”

“At the end of that first class I had experienced something different within my body and being that was somewhat familiar to me, yet it felt like it had been a very long time since I had experienced this, perhaps lifetimes. I had read and heard it described many times in a yoga class or a course, yet had never actually felt it before. It was a deep settlement, a feeling of returning home”.

After experiencing Esoteric Yoga, I soon realised that what I had been practising during those many nights of lying awake whilst going through chemo was something similar yet in a less organised way. The same principles were there as in an Esoteric Yoga class, the connection of the body and the being, united together as one.

It became apparent to me that up until that point what I had previously been practising with yoga, and also how I had been living my life, was with no connection to the quality of stillness. Stillness had not been part of my life up until then, yet it is so lovely, natural and innate.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer and going through chemotherapy was a stop moment. This led me to question and clarify the importance of living with the quality of stillness to our overall health and wellbeing, and how it can play a vital role in our healing process.


  • [1]

    Excerpt from Breathing My Own Breath – Donna Nolan

This article contains excerpts from and is inspired by Donna’s memoir, Breathing My Own Breath detailing her journey with yoga, breast cancer and learning to live and with the quality of stillness. The book will be available for purchase early September 2021,

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Breast cancerHealingNurturingStillnessYoga

  • By Donna Nolan, Universal Medicine Therapies Practitioner, Yoga Teacher

    A country girl born and bred, I love nature and in particular playing at the beach in the ocean. I love colour, sparkles, pretty dresses and have recently rediscovered the joy and beauty of playing piano.