stillness

Exhilarating, Luxurious, and Urgent

Exhilarating, Luxurious, and Urgent

"In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still."

~ Pico Iyer

Two Inches Away

Two Inches Away

"The only way I've found to try to keep my balance in a globe permanently on the move—and ever more cluttered with stuff—is to step out of the world on a regular basis, and to step back from my life, so as to see what's truly inside them. Otherwise, I can feel I'm standing two inches away from a vast and constantly shifting canvas, terminally unable to make out the larger picture."

~ Pico Iyer

How Little it Takes

Weeping European Beech, Topiary Park, February 9, 2014

Sabbaths 1999, VII
by Wendell Berry, from Given 

Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.

What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowlyfalling, and is pleased.

Constantly Rolling

"The truly still mind, with which you were born, is the mind that moves freely. Without ignoring anything, it reacts wholeheartedly to everything it encounters, to everything on which it reflects. And yet, for all that, it is the mind that is never seized by anything, but is always ready to react on the spot to whatever it encounters next. The mind that is still is the mind that never forfeits its freedom and is able to constantly keep rolling and rolling and rolling."

~ Sōkō Morinaga

Something Deeper than Mere Happiness

Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, January 2012

Excerpts from "The Joy of Quiet," by Pico Iyer, The New York Times, December 29, 2011:

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

...The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

...So what to do? The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.

Maybe that’s why more and more people I know, even if they have no religious commitment, seem to be turning to yoga, or meditation, or tai chi; these aren’t New Age fads so much as ways to connect with what could be called the wisdom of old age. Two journalist friends of mine observe an “Internet sabbath” every week, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation.

...In my own case, I turn to eccentric and often extreme measures to try to keep my sanity and ensure that I have time to do nothing at all (which is the only time when I can see what I should be doing the rest of the time). I’ve yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.

None of this is a matter of principle or asceticism; it’s just pure selfishness. Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

Read the entire essay here...

[Thanks, Carol!]

Let’s Not Speak

Deer Haven. May 15, 2011

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda, from Extravagaria

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Put the Lid on the Kettle

You Suspect This Could Be Yours
by Rumi, translated by Daniel Liebert

you suspect this could be yours
with a little contrivance

only death to contrivance
will avail you

something good or bad
always comes out of you
it is agony to be still;
the spool turns
when mind pulls the thread

let the water settle;
you will see moon and stars
mirrored in your being

when the kettle boils
fire is revealed
when the millstone turns
the river shows its power

put the lid on the kettle
and be filled
with the boiling of love.

Sublime Illusion

photo by Pez Owen

From Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat: Stillness Amidst the World:

“The sun never sets. It is only an appearance due to the observer’s limited perspective. And yet, what a sublime illusion it is.”

* * * * *

“The original reason for art is the sacred—to be a portal, an access point for the sacred. When you see it or experience it, you experience yourself. In it you see yourself reflected. In true art, the formless is shining through the form.

Ultimately, it is not everybody’s purpose to create works of art. It is much more important for you to become a work of art. Your whole life, your very being, becomes transparent so that the formless can shine through. That happens when you are no longer totally identified with the world of form.

It happens when you have access to the realm of stillness within yourself. Then something emanates through the form that is not the form.”