‘Don’t just do something, sit there'.
When I was young people always told me to “keep busy Petrus”, (maybe they still do) then I met the Buddha who advised me to ‘keep still’.
I recently had two experiences that were similar and different at the same time. One was a trip into the desert, to Lake Mungo to be precise, and the other was a book I bought, titled The Art of Stillness, by Pico Iyer.
The stillness that I experienced in the desert was both refreshing and healing. Although it took a while to adjust to the deep silence of the place. To adjust to the extreme quiet and fully experience and appreciate that silence. To adjust to the ‘inaction’, which I continuously wanted to change into ‘action’. Any action, it seemed, to silence that silence.
We are addicted to our noisy lives. Noisy, especially in terms of the visual and audible. Noisy, especially with that seductive piece of technology that has taken the world by storm. The mobile phone, with its continuous interruptions. Facebook with is mainly inane gossip. Twitter we can well do without, texts and emails which fill our lives with an empty busyness which although it feels real, in the main, isn’t. It interferes with our hearing and understanding of what is going on in the real world, meaning the natural world, that world that was always meant to sustain us.
However, in the absolute silence of the desert, where there was no coverage and no interference there surfaced, during the following days of stillness, the question about the meaning of it all. It was persistent. It needed to be dealt with. So, with a stick I began scratching ideas in the dirt, I came up with this.
Inherently, life has no meaning, but the meaning we give it. I explain it like this, imagine an architect in the morning. He has placed a clean sheet of paper on his drawing board. It is completely empty. This represents the meaning of life. By evening he has created a beautiful drawing of a house. This is the meaning he has given his life. Drawing gives meaning to his life. I believe that our personal actions create the meaning we give to our lives. Each one is different.
Which brings me back to the art of stillness. Because it is in stillness that we can hear the heart speak. It is in stillness that we are able to hear and see the answers. The noise in our daily lives is debilitating. We never seem to be able to catch up. So, my advice, take some time out once in a while to be still and hear the message from your heart. ‘So that you can more easily remember who you are…..’
The quiet sounds of the desert. The message from the sighing of the breeze in the acacias, the twitter and songs of the birds, the hymn performed by a fire at night, the song of a kettle on the boil, plus the glorious healing concert of the night silence.
Now shut up Petrus and be still.