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Stillness and the Sound of Silence
Our towns and cities are loud with the sounds of perpetual endeavor. The car is much less a servant and more a tyrant, technology less a tool and more a dependency, and the clock is less a measure and more our master. People rush from meeting to meeting, from shop to cinema with less time than ever to give each other. Increasingly, we fill the urge to escape the pressures that seem to assail us with activity and noise that we believe will relax us, but more often only further distracts our mind and agitates our heart. There comes a point, however, when we recognize an inner call that pulls us back toward simplicity. A feeling tugs our hearts, and at the core of this feeling is a power more magnetic than anything that industry or city life has to offer – the simple healing power of silence.
Embracing the healing power of silence
Silence is that profound aspect of creation that evokes ideas of infinity, the grandeur of our spirit, and the possibility of authentic and deep personal peace. Silence should never be regarded as merely nothingness or emptiness. It is the very ground of creation and the ultimate source of creativity. A composer knows that the silences between the notes are as much a part of the symphony as the notes themselves. The painter begins with both an empty canvas and a quiet mind. It is the unseen silence of the canvas that will hold the artist’s creative expression together. It is also an unseen and unfelt silence that holds together the canvas that is the multidimensional backdrop of our daily lives.
Stillness: The core of our being
At the heart of the creative beings that we all are, there is a silent and still place from which all that we create arises. Just as the center of a wheel is still, just as the point on which the spinning top spins is still, and just as the nucleus of the atom around which the electrons travel is still, so the center of our being is completely still. Stillness is the core of being. Our life both emerges from and revolves around this still and silent point within the ‘inner space’ of our consciousness. When we are still we are as we originally were and always will be. No thing, just being.
In that inner ‘seat,’ there is no movement of thought or feeling, memory or belief. And where there is no movement, there is no change, and where there is no change, there is no time, only timelessness. When we are in this still state, we become aware of our timelessness, our eternity. And there is the deepest peace, the peace of pure being. It is the most profound relaxation. In lives easily lived in the pursuit of ‘more,’ this silent and still point signals us to return, to simply sit and be our ‘self’… and nothing more.
Breaking free from illusions and distortions
Some say there is a spiritual journey to be made, a process of self-transformation, a ‘becoming’, a movement from a self that is lost and trapped in a noisy and heated world, to a self that ‘achieves’ its freedom, coolness, and happiness from the world. Others say there is no journey because there is nowhere to go. They say that while human bodies may go from here to there the human spirit, the self, goes nowhere because there is only ever here! Only being, just being, and being is never there, only here. They say that the being is never not being; it just seems otherwise. And that ‘seeming’ happens when we lose our connection with the core of our being and start believing we are something ‘other’!
We start believing we are our form and personality. And when we believe we are our physical form, we start to travel across horizontal planes, driven by a variety of machines searching for happiness. When we believe we are a personality, we aspire to travel in vertical planes, driven by a vehicle called ambition in search of success. In the process, we create noise and heat, agitation, and frustration. And they are only tiring. The more we attempt to travel both horizontally and vertically, the further we seem from the place of coolness, peace, and stillness at the very center of ourselves.
Gaining perspective and finding peace
And yet the ‘still point’ that we are, the center of our being, is never more than one second and no distance away. It is our ‘view’, our perception from this quiet place that creates the illusion that we are no longer there!
Our ‘views’ are shaped by the many perceptions that we learn to assimilate from the world around us and then recreate in the world within us. Perceptions based on illusions that life is only ‘out there,’ that life is dangerous, that others are a threat, that there is not enough to go around, that time itself is running out. From these and other illusions come the ‘distortions’ of our creativity into thought forms that we know as fearing, doubting, blaming, attacking, and accumulating, to mention only a few! They seem real enough when our ‘inner reality’ is defined only by our thoughts and feelings, but they are just like clouds that pass before the sun and temporarily block the sun.
Losing ourselves in these thoughts and feelings is like the sun losing itself in the clouds and believing it is the clouds. It is a huge and common mistake we all learn to make, and it seems to disconnect us from the radiance of our own being and from the peace that surpasses all other pleasures. But just as the morning sun rises to burn through the clouds and evaporate the mists, simply by shining directly into them, so we too can do the same to the clouds of our illusions and the swirling mists of our distorted thoughts and feelings.
We only have to step back from them, rise above them, find our seat in that still and silent point of our being, and observe, watch, see. And as we do, like the sun, the natural radiant light of our being, of our consciousness, evaporates the illusions of fear, the misperceptions of threats, and those beliefs about scarcity and danger.
Reuniting with our true creative power
Being quiet and sitting at the still point of our being also puts the rushing world around us into a new perspective. It is seen for what it is, a gathering of creative beings who have mostly learned to believe that ‘important’ things must be done today to ensure tomorrow will be OK. Trapped in an attempt to ‘secure the future,’ the power and the beauty of ‘the moment’ are missed. The present is not only lost but eventually avoided. We learn to live in a projection of tomorrow, and we miss the reality of now. Peace seems lost, love is suppressed, and happiness delayed, because although good things can be momentarily anticipated, ultimately only fear inhabits an imagined future.
The journey back to the present moment
But with the clouds of illusion burned off, the view from the center, from that silent, still point of being, is quite different. It reveals that all is always well, all is as it should be, at every moment. Everything is happening exactly as it’s meant to happen. From this awareness, we innately know that ‘creation’ is unfolding as it is, and needs no one to change it, or improve it. With judgment, criticism, and condemnation the main thought forms that have separated us from the still point of our center are now gone, we are reunited with the true peace of our being.
From this perspective, the actions of thinking and doing are no longer shaped and driven by present frustrations, personal agendas, or the possibility of future insecurity. The fear that drives the impulse to grasp and the survivalist mindset is also gone, replaced by an understanding that knows all is well, even when all around seems chaotic. The reality of others suffering is not ignored but met with compassion, and a quiet commitment to help them free their ‘self’ from their illusions, and return to their ‘seat’.
Embracing the stillness within
So how do you ‘be’ in this inner space? In truth, the question is irrelevant because you are already there. And when you realize that you could not ‘be’ anywhere else…you’ll laugh. In the meantime, it ‘seems’ you are far from being silent and still, far from being able to view the changing scenes of life around you with complete equanimity and equipoise, far from knowing the immense creative power that can come through the point of being that you are. So until that awareness is fully restored and present until you are fully present to yourself until you are no longer under the illusion of needing to go ‘there’ and you are fully ‘here’ again, here is a simple practice that may ease your way back to where you never left!
Sit somewhere quietly for a moment. Watch your thoughts. Notice there is you, and there are thoughts. Notice that as thoughts pass through your awareness that there are small gaps between each thought, like gaps between the carriages of a train. Now watch the gaps. As you do, notice how the gaps expand, and your thoughts become slower and slower. Notice within the gaps there is nothing, and that nothingness is still and silent. Observe the silence and allow it to expand. Perceive there is no separation between you and the silence. Notice how ‘still’ you are, in the expanding silence. Notice how you lose awareness of time passing in the silent stillness of your being, that you are just being.
Question: What is the difference between being and doing?
Reflection: Nothing real changes – true or false?
Action: Practice ‘noticing’, as in the final paragraph above, for three minutes twice a day for the next week.
Written by our professor Mike George.