“Hesychia, stillness, is essential for man’s purification and perfection, which means his salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically: “One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous a little away from those wandering in error”. Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains communion and union with God. This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God, also constitutes man’s salvation.
Hesychia is nothing other than “keeping one’s heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities”. When a person frees his heart from thoughts and passions, when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly things and towards God, then he is experiencing orthodox hesychia. St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is “the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable mind”. Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is “dwelling in God”.
Of course the holy Fathers distinguish between external and internal stillness. External stillness is liberation of the senses and the body from sights, and particularly from the bondage which the world imposes, while inner stillness is liberation of the heart from images, fantasies and worries. Hesychia of the body is usually the hesychastic position and the person’s attempt to limit as far as possible external representations, the images which our sensations receive and offer to the soul. Hesychia of the soul implies that the nous is able not to accept any temptations to stray. In this way man’s nous escapes from the outer world and enters his heart, which is where it really belongs. Thus a person acquires peace in his heart, and there God Himself is revealed.
As we have seen, St. Gregory Palamas lived this orthodox hesychia. At first he looked for a secluded spot on the Holy Mountain and prayed to God night and day. Then he attained inner hesychia as well. Within this spiritual hesychastic atmosphere he acquired the knowledge of God, at the time when the heresy appeared which sought to unsettle the fundamental aspects of the Church’s teaching. It was just then, since he had experience of this life, that he expressed it. It is only in this light that we must look at the life of St. Gregory. He was not just a student of the holy Fathers, but one who had the same life, and therefore also the same teaching as they.”
—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos