Sunday, January 5, 2020

Mark McCloskey - Sitting Still

On the band, REM's album, Murmur, there is a song entitled "Sitting Still." It a very melodic, catchy tune. The lyrics of this song, and many of their other songs are sometimes difficult to pick out and somewhat contested. There is however one particular fragment in the song where Michael Stipe sings ". . . it's a waste of time sitting still." And so it is a great question for us. Is the practice of sitting still in silence, in meditation, biofeedback, relaxation response or contemplative prayer a way to find Pure Silence, to find the Truth, Enlightenment, Divine Union or Nirvana? If you have read previous entries in this site, you will have read ideas about stopping, being still, allowing the silence to be realized, etc. Is the practice of physical stillness important in this realization of Pure Silence?

    I can only answer this by stating a few facts. First, every spiritual tradition maintains the idea that silence and stillness are important for genuine psycho-spiritual and human development. Buddha found enlightenment "sitting" under the Bodhi tree. Jesus went to the desert to search within himself and fought off temptations (mental dramas?) and is described in the gospels as going off alone frequently to pray. Many other founders of various religions discovered their "way" from practices of being still in silence. Second, it is scientifically proven that meditative practices are extremely beneficial for the body itself. You can read up on that on your own.

   The problem I see is not with sitting still and meditating, it is rather finding the answer to three questions. Why does one need to meditate at all? Who is there meditating? What is or should be the result of meditating? By really and personally answering these questions, it is possible to see if "it is a waste of time sitting still." Please do think about this.

Peace to you.

  Sitting still in silence has various names and various techniques from various traditions. In Buddhism it is called Zazen or Mindfulness. In the Hindu tradition is it Yoga or mantra meditation. In Christianity it is contemplative prayer, Centering Prayer© or Christian Meditation©. In more secular language there is TM©, the Relaxation Response©, and hundreds of other methods and mixtures. The common thread to all these is silence and the allowing of the mind to be silent and still.

    No matter what form or tradition of "sitting still" you currently practice or might practice, there is something very important to understand. The basic tenant of all these methods is the stopping of the mind in its tracks including ALL mental patterns, all words, images, desires, needs and expectations. If the technique you use is helpful in stopping the mind, if your practice is a compassionate and gentle ally, then by all means continue with it.

    What does it mean to stop the mind? It means simply to realize that you are not your thought patterns. You are not your mantra. You are not any image that arises in your mind. In fact (and this is paramount) you are the Pure Silence itself. So in essence, "sitting still" is merely a way for you with your conditioned mind, with all your belief systems about who you think you are, to experience you as you are, in silent nothingness, aware of nothing in particular and witness to all that arises.

    The actual "sitting still" is or can be symbolic of your entire life and a very good reminder that the nothingness of the Divine, the void, the silence, is constantly bathing you in its light and love; it is supporting you, lovingly and constantly, every millisecond in and through even the most tumultuous experiences of life. However, as I have said before, you do not need to sit still to realize this; this can also be realized this moment if you are ready with 100% intent and willingness to just surrender to Pure Silence. But, modern western humanity is very lazy, very stubborn and very conditioned.  Perhaps some of us just need to take time out during our day to simply sit still and allow everything to just simply be, including that which we have labeled "mind." Maybe then we can more easily come to that moment in our lives when we are ready, with no effort, with no force, with only simple awareness of the Pure Silence of  this moment to say, "yes, this is it, this is me, I've known all along but have forgotten, but now I know who I am, I am the Pure Silence of sitting still itself.

Love and joy to you.


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