Sometimes words fail me. Keeping quiet seems the better way. To share my immediate preference for silence, I’m offering two earlier approaches to Stillness. The simplest comes from the Common Sense Book of Change. The second elaborates on the first, and as a compliment may prove helpful.
Hexagram 52. STILLNESS
Peace within and harmony without come from STILLNESS.
When immediate answers to important questions
cannot be found,
sometimes keeping still is the best way out.
Burning desires produce chaotic thinking.
This only clouds the issue
and makes life painful.
Meditation is a valuable method for finding stillness.
Avoid useless activity.
Essay 47 from Conscience offers alternative perspectives on the meditative tradition, practiced throughout the ages around the globe.
Essay 47. STILLNESS
Knowing where and how to settle the mind, one will become calm.
Having attained calmness, one will be undisturbed.
Having attained an undisturbed mind, one will have peace.
Having attained peace, one’s mind will respond correctly to all situations.
One who responds correctly to all situations will find the way.
— Confucius, Great Commentary. [emphasis added]
“I suggest you begin with such a primary procedure as simply the practice of keeping physically still. . . In developing a calm control it is necessary to think calmness, for the body responds sensitively to the type of thoughts that pass through the mind. It is also true that the mind can be quieted by first making the body quiet. That is to say, a physical attitude can induce desired mental attitudes.” — Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking
“Taoism advises us to try neither to win nor lose, to seek neither resolution nor impasse, but to study the rising and falling of the way as it moves through the field of our conflict. . . At all times, we search for the center, the fulcrum that creates balance. We stay within the eye of the hurricane. We look for the center, for that is where truth is to be found.” — Brian Muldoon, The Heart of Conflict
The root of “still” means immobile. By extension, the quality of stillness means being without sound; quiet, silent. It means not moving, stationary, at rest, motionless. It is characterized by little or no commotion or agitation, being tranquil, calm, and serene, like the still water of a lake.
The “where” Confucius refers to in the Great Commentary is the point of focus, called the ajna center, known as the third eye – Muldoon’s “eye of the hurricane.”
The “how” refers to meditative breathing and exercise practices which direct the flow of energy (chi). The intent is to circulate chi freely throughout the subtle nervous system and energy centers, thus linking and harmonizing the interrelated functions of mind and body.
“Peace” refers to inner equilibrium, regardless of whether the external world is in harmony or conflict. “Correctly” refers to behavior in accord with natural and divine law. “The way” refers to the unfathomable Tao, the undivided source of creation.
In the Bible, we’re told, “Be still and know that I am God.” Similarly, in Asian traditions, meditators cultivate a quiet heart through physical stillness to experience the supreme ultimate, Tai Chi.
The practical methods outlined in Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutras are helpful in this regard. This classic lists sequential stages of development, as well as obstacles to be avoided. When the beginner first starts the process of calming and disciplining the mind, temptations arise.
One, for example, is the quicksand of astral experience. Others include “siddhis,” or “powers” – sometimes offered by the “dark side of the force.” The beginner is warned to recognize the important difference between between the multitude of seductive astral voices and the quiet, still voice of conscience.
During initial stages of training, distracting voices are silenced. Discrimination is cultivated. helping meditators recognize the difference between fantasies, old mental impressions and genuine intuition. The goal is to penetrate the clouds of the middle astral/energy level of the Life Wheel in order to access the still, timeless center.
Information overload is the opposite of stillness. Visual and audio clutter pull attention in thousands of fragmenting directions, diminishing personal integration and mental cohesion. In extreme situations, the mind and nervous system shut down in self-defense, going catatonic to close out mind-shattering external influences.
Rigid tension, blocking out whatever was seems threatening or inconvenient, obstructs the relaxed, receptive attitude of genuine stillness. Those who ignore the still voice of inner calling and the good advice of true friends can’t receive help. Impervious minds, deaf ears and hard hearts are perversions of stillness.