Finding the Still Point
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is the only moment."
As a teen, I used to roll my eyes whenever Dad proclaimed "progress" had distinct problems.
Sometimes, he'd launch into telling me (once again) that his grandfather believed that the automobile would be a destructive force in the world. A man who had witnessed their emergence on the roads of southern California at the turn of the 20th century, he thought people were moving much too fast. Sped up in their own self-contained worlds, they were loosing touch with nature -- and with one another.
Now, decades later, I get it. As Bob Dylan once sang, "Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now." My great-grandfather had a pretty clear idea of the direction we were heading.
As I glance at the cellphone sitting alongside the keyboard and notice that I'm currently sitting here with 6 tabs of information on this browser awaiting my beck and call (quotes, pictures, Wikepedia, dictionary, email, blogger), I am quite aware that there is something deeply unsettling about the nature of "life as we know it" on planet earth today -- at least here in 21st century America. Having compared notes with other geezers, it seems there is a consensus: The rat race has only gotten worse.
Although, I can't speak about how it may feel in other parts of the world today, I do remember having a conversation with an immigrant from Vietnam years ago. A minor bureaucrat, he had left the country when the Communist government took power.
We were co-workers at a spiffy New Age natural foods restaurant, bakery,
retail store complex in Madison, WI. As we sat in the alley out back
taking a break(with one eye out for the manager), he lamented that the entire pace of
life in the U.S. was unhealthy, uncivilized and inhumane. Staying in touch with his relatives, hearing of their lives, he had decided to return home. He had come to believe that the entire fabric of life in his
homeland, Communist or not, was much better than what he and his family was experiencing in the US.
And that was thirty-five years ago!
That was before everyone had a PC , a cell phone, the internet, and a gazzillion cable channels to choose from. Back then, I still had the time and space to sigh and stretch out when I got home from work. If I wanted stimulation, I would reach for the TV Guide and look through the listings, then get out of the chair to stroll across the room to select the channel. If I wanted to change the channel, it was a decision that required me to stroll back across the room.
It seems that most of are on remote control, bombarded with stimuli and activity, sped up and wired for action in most every waking moment --or thinking about it. Our cellphones can capture us at the blink of an eye.
Even at rest, our minds are constantly on the move
with a dizzying kaleidoscope of images and sounds and thoughts zipping
through our awareness continuously. Awash in constant stimulation,
scurry, and noise, time seems to have collapsed -- leaving no time at
And -- surprise, surprise -- most of us are often feeling a bit breathless; increasingly stressed out, restless and anxious.
Give it a Rest, Buddhy!
In all the major religious traditions that I've studied over the years, there is a deep recognition that Stillness and Rest are not only important -- they are crucial.
As mystics throughout the ages have proclaimed, at the core of Reality, there is Quiescence, a Vast, Spacious, Profound Stillness. It is an essential part of Our Being. Although we can get swept up in the activity and constant sensory bombardment of today's world, I think it's important to remember that even the OmniProductive God of the Old Testament, working hard enough to create the entire Universe in only six days, then took a day off --and proclaimed it Holy!
Of course, as God Almighty, Yahweh could probably kick back and settle right into the Stillness. For most of us, it may not be that easy.