Free "Back to Breath" 7-Day Challenge Join Now

Why We Can’t Hold On To Stillness

In this talk I want to discuss what might be our biggest challenge. To find a state of stillness, and remain productive in the world. How do we accomplish, while remaining present.

Why are most of us unable to hold on to stillness? Many of us can find stillness, but why isn’t it easier to just stay there? This talk assumes that you know what I mean when I say stillness. Some call it big mind, or a state of presence.

I did a talk before called Stillness in Motion. While this talk is similar, it will differ in the level we’re talking about. Stillness in motion was a talk about the feeling of holding stillness while we do things.

I’ve heard Ken Wilber say things like you can’t be in a non-dual state and in a state of duality at the same time. I’d be interested to speak with him about that because I have a deep sense of being still, or in a non-dual state while still seeing and being aware of, and able to function in the world full of duality.

This talk will discuss, and point out that we definitely still have the desire to accomplish and do things. We may drop the attachment to that desire, but we still discern.

At the base of our being is a function of judgement. This judgement leads to most of our discomfort. It puts us on the treadmill of time. Judgement says this situation isn’t as I would like it to be, so let’s change it. It leads to inner becoming. I’m not enough, etc. Many spiritual teachings seem to imply that this is a bad thing. But it’s important that we don’t vilify this idea. We need this function to survive. It’s the same impulse that tells us we’re in danger. It also allows for us to better the world.

We don’t lose the ability to judge when we’re still. I usually begin to describe this judgement as “discerning” to show that there is a difference. It isn’t a lost, deeply judgemental, place that we come from, but we can tell what our preference would be. We do chose to walk, and eat, and talk, etc.

Many stereotypical representations of meditation imply that the meditator is unable to discern when in a deep meditative state. That’s just not accurate. I mentioned before the Burning Monk, who had gasoline (or some flammable liquid) poured over him and lit. Then there was a picture taken of him not moving. While his experience of that might have been different than yours or mine, he still was aware that he was burning. The amazing thing is not some otherworldly state of mind he found, but rather the choice to stay. The discipline to stay.

The trick is going to be to learn to remain still while we judge and think. Can we remain aware while we judge? We need to learn to watch our judgements. The subtle distinction is this: A frustrated meditator learns about a pleasurable state of mind and then catches themselves thinking and discredits all the stillness they achieved. Whereas, a centered meditator finds himself or herself in a thinking state and watches it, thereby remaining centered.

In this world, we have things to accomplish. There is work to be done. In every moment we look at the world and have opinions about how it could be better, things we need, things we want to have, or do, or give. None of that is wrong. It’s really important that we allow for that. There is such a thing as growth. There is betterment.

So is stillness in conflict with betterment? Doesn’t stillness imply that we’re done? While it is an appreciative state, we can be aware of movement, and the need for change while holding on to stillness. Stillness is a state of awareness. One that is realized and awake to the truth of a situation. If there is betterment to be done, do it, but try to remain aware.

Our innate ability and need to create and judge is what’s impairing our ability to remain still. And that’s a wonderful thing. The work we’re here to do is to marry the two. We’re here to blend the duality. We can engage in both experiences, and do our best to remain aware of where we are and what we’re doing.

Referenced: Ken Wilber, and Burning Monk

How Committed Are You?

Making any kind of change is very difficult when we aren’t truly committed to it. So what is commitment and how do we find it?

I see people use meditation and become spiritual all the time to feel better when they are sad. But they often drop the practice once things get better. Finding commitment is hard to do, but we don’t want to get caught in the common loop of: being in pain, working to escape it, forgetting we were in pain. We can’t really escape pain fully until we learn to stay committed to change through all seasons.

Can you practice stillness when the world is good too? Can you “sacrifice” to try to stay awake at all times? This is not meant to imply that being awake isn’t fun. It’s only meant to show that commitment is necessary for lasting change.

How can we stay committed? We can use anchors. We can surround ourselves with books and podcasts and ideas that support our goals. We can commit to practicing meditation. But what is the thing underneath? It might just be our pain itself. Finding your reason to stay committed is really important. What happened to you that got you started down this road? What pain happened to you? Make a point of holding on to that.

People often mention that we can’t change other people. I disagree. We are all connected and intertwined. A change from you affects me. So if there is learning, if there is change, then we can point to something. We can find the “ah ha!” we can turn on a light switch for people.

In this talk, the light switch is the idea that being committed makes change easy. Finding commitment can be hard, but once we find it quitting smoking, eating differently, losing weight, meditation, all become simple. So what’s your reason to stay committed? Make that an “ah ha!” for you. Create new grooves of thought. Be awake to your pain. Change.

The Different Meanings of To Be

I want to clarify what I mean by “to be” because it is actually more than one thing. It is both “to be – still” and also “to be – what you are.” This may be hard to stomach because these seem to be in opposition, but they are both really important. It’s actually many many layers, and facets of things to wade through. So let’s look for more language around this issue.

“To be still” implies working with the mind through concentration and space to “still” the busy mind. You might think of this as the Buddhist way of practicing meditation. It implies a lot of things: Peace, but also difficulty in finding that peace. It has a sense of carrot and stick to it: I’m not still now, and I want to be still. So time is implied. “I’m not what I want to be.” There is a part of us that is trying to grow. This is the part that realizes that need for growth. This type of practice is important. We could call this discipline.

“To be what you are” implies a looser idea, of “I’m OK” in any situation. So if you are busy, be busy. If you are still, be still. You could think of this in a more Taoist sense, or more “zen” if you will. Up is down, right is wrong, everything is OK. This sense is much less rational, but also very important. It’s being gentle with who we are. It’s also dropping expectations about what we are supposed to be. This is the state that has no conflict, even when “conflict” is there. Meaning, in this state, you are not trying to be anything but what you are. This is the awakened state. This you might call freedom.

So the discipline allows for the second freedom, in a sense. The discipline is hard, and the freedom is soft. They are two ends of a spectrum. The Buddha talked about the middle path, and this is what he meant. You can’t leave your mind too loose, it needs some discipline. It also can’t be too rigid, or you never actually sit in the space of freedom.

A mystical Christian might say that since everything is God, each moment is the expression of God right now. We should learn to be in alignment with that, and it takes forgiveness (being what you are) and a bit of discipline (learning to be still) to align with that expression.

So the practice of meditation is working with your mind to still it. But it is also the practice of forgiving, or allowing to be whatever is. You may sit and have a busy mind. That’s OK. You may sit and fall into a lot of freedom, that’s OK too. If you feel too loose, bring some discipline. If you find you’re being too rigid, loosen up. That’s the middle path.

The World Is Your Body

This is an advanced talk. Many people may find this content weird, but I’m serious when I say that the world is your body. We’re trying to learn to look at the world differently. This is very literally a different way to look at the world. It’s a shift in consciousness.

Normal subject/object consciousness has ego and self boundaries involved with it. It’s important that we don’t look at these ideas from a place of self. We need to drop self to understand these ideas.

Subject and object aren’t separate. The act of listening, seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling can’t occur without both the subject and the object. That being the case, the actual act of sensation is the real content, and the parties involved are only ideas. The listening, as an example, *IS* the thing that’s going on. When we learn to dive into experience on that level we widen our perception of ourselves, and the world. Our experience is further out than we thought. We start to realize that we are larger than we thought.

Another point to understand is that we become, literally, whatever we focus on. When we see a sunset, we are the sunset. When we think a thought, we are that thought. When we hear a car horn, we are the car horn. The reason most of us don’t feel that way is because we are too busy bouncing from thought to experience to thought, etc. to realize any content deeply enough. This understanding is a new way of approaching things, but it allows for many freedoms.

What are the benefits of these ideas? An unchecked ego is the basis for all of our pain. This is another way, or facet, to understand dropping the ego. It’s another way to describe a new way of being. This will allow us to be filled with what is: sunsets, car horns, stillness, joy.

The practice is to realize that you are not a separate thing. You are an integral part of the greater whole. You are necessary to the process of life. Everything you hear, taste, smell, see, and feel shows you a wider self. That horn down the street is you. That breeze is you. You are vast. Realize it. Imagine, as a side benefit, how respectful we’ll be of the world once we realize it’s us.

Lastly, realizing that your body is the world quickly allows us to relate to the idea of “oneness of being” that all great philosophies speak of. This understanding is a way to realize that oneness.

Show music: La Bella Monterosa by Sahnas