Tag Archives: stillness

Listening

I opened a fortune cookie the other day. The fortune inside said “you can hear a lot just by listening”

A long time ago I heard a story about listening. The story goes that during his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt noted that few people were paying attention to what he said. To see how true it was, he decided to test his theory out during a white house gathering. As he greeted each person, he would say”I murdered my grandmother this morning.” Not hearing what he said most people just smiled, nodded and gave a courteous response such as “how nice” and “good for you”. Finally, he got a response when the Bolivian Ambassador responded with “Well she must have deserved it”.

To Listen; is to be present and give one’s attention to perception1

Communication Lets begin with the obvious.When we talk, we are not listening. Even when someone else is talking, we may not be listening.Even if you are hearing you may not be listening. On a deeper level, the listening is done with the mind, and hopefully, consciousness paying attention. You are looking at someone while they are telling something they feel is hugely compelling, only your mind is buried deep within your mind stream2. When something wakes you up and you pay attention outward, you realized that you haven’t heard a word of what was said because your attention was somewhere “upstream”.

Listening goes deeper than that. This chapter is about cultivating the skill to pay attention to what you hear. Or deeper yet, it is to pay attention to what you perceive3. It’s not just sound wave in the form of another person’s voice. It is “hearing” what the consciousness behind the words is conveying to you.

Intuition. Listening is a complement of Intuition. Deep listening leads to intuition. When you listen, you perceive. What you perceive, you can observe. The product of what you is what you hear. That is unless your attention is deeply in mindstreaming.

The anecdote to this is to be present and mindful. Being able to stay focused on hearing, listening and experiencing what you perceive is transforming.

Being able to stay focused and to listen requires not thinking at the same time. Recall what was discussed in the chapter on emptiness about it having functionality. Emptiness gives function to listening. Being empty in order to receive.The mind is still so it can observe. You cannot listen while you are thinking.

Contrary to how this may sound, this is the highest form of waking consciousness. Note the following words that are listed at the beginning of this chapter.

The function of the ear ends with hearing,
that of the mind, with symbols or ideas.
But the spirit is an emptiness ready to receive all things.

Excerpt from the Chuang Tzu Chapter 4

As I have mentioned many times in this and other books, the ability to wake up from mindstream and pay attention, hold focus is a spiritual ability cultivated through meditation. It is applied over and over in your waking life through continuously becoming mindful.

You are listening. Your mind drifts. Your consciousness realizes that your focus drifted and you refocus back to observing/listening (perceive/to pay attention). Listening with focused attention is a skill. When you practice it the same person enough, they will tell you that you are a good listener. The people in your life will regard you more favorably. They will also notice if you miss a lot because your mind is busy while they are talking to you. When you present some deep nuance that only you understand, then they will tell you that you ”think too much”.

So this focused attention is to be applied often but in a balanced way. The is a certain harmony that you must achieve where you observe/listen to each moment along with the need to think about what you are doing. It is best if you approach this with moderation. Just practice gently, giving yourself the rest of your life to cultivate it.

While you are reading this, notice how the “voice” will comment. Or notice how your mind will drift off when you perceive some interesting concept. Your eyes and mind will still be processing the material, yet the attention off in mindstream. Then you wake up and have to go back and reread the previous sentence. Sometimes the content can be so complex that it can provoke thinking, and you have to reread over a of bunch times. So stop right here. Raise your head up and think about this.

Spirit to spirit. If you did it, and now you are back. You went from listening to distraction, and now you are back listening. Interestingly, the information in my mind right now is taking a quantum leap and traveling through time and space. It is being perceived by your consciousness in some future date and in some other location. From my spirit essence to yours in the now continuum. Each spirit and mind still yet connected. Perhaps listening is a quantum event. This is the power of being present in the “now”. Such is the power of listening.

The final point is this; when you are present and still (out of mindstream), you are in the Tao. This is the Tao connection. When you listening and at one with the Tao, you are in the highest state of being. Your potential (what you are capable of) becomes unlimited when unified with the Tao. It is easier said than done. Yet you can transform your life with even the smallest connection. You connect every time you become still and listen. Listen with constancy4

The sovereign cultivates the ability of returning to the Tao and listening. With a bit of work, you can gain the ability listen to your own thoughts with a sense of detachment. Within your true nature is wisdom. Being able to remove your attention from ego mindstreaming and know your wisdom is a very effective skill. Work at it. Become a good listener.

1This definition was a composite from several sources.

2Mind stream, or mindstreaming is an ancient spiritual concept defined as the “moment to moment continuum. The focus of your consciousness is often deeply concentrated in thought. A type of ongoing distraction creating a loss of presence.

3 to perceive is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. Or a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression

4See the Chapter on “constancy”. – returning to one’s true nature

Stillness; The Underrated Power

Stillness is a much ignored and underrated power. Stillness may even be perceived as a oxymoron when used in the same sentence as “power”. But those who have practiced meditation understand that stillness is the gateway to the higher consciousness.

To appreciate stillness, one can begin with its opposite. That might be stress, anxiety, or its physical opposite; movement. In human evolution we acquired the gift of the stress response. The ability to instantly raise our physical and mental abilities to a very high level so that we could survive through fight or flight. Most people have heard of this and know it is as the fight or flight response or stress response.

But what many people do not realize is that nature also gifted us with its antidote. The nature of the Tao contains the creative element of change. Circumstances are always changing. It can be observed in weather and climate patterns. On the daily scale the weather will change with the sun and night (yang changing to yin). On the weekly perspective, one can observe the daily patter layered upon a slower change as weather systems and fronts come and go. Each season brings a change from the last each with its variations hourly, daily, weekly and upward. Even climate change across eons can now be observed through the study of layers of ice crystals from the Arctic ice shelf.

In these changing patterns we notice the yang and yin patterns. In our more local universe, we should also become aware of the nature of change and use consciousness to maintain the natural balance.

When we live a life too much in motion, that is too much activity in both the internal and external, the natural rhythm of our mind body is interrupted. Typically in modern society, we spend too much of our life striving for more. We eat too much, we engage in way too much emotional drama, we experience too much anxiety and stress. We over stimulate our minds with too much cognitive function whether it is working too much, to much TV drama, too much video games, too much worry, or any obsession that is too much.

This out of balance state is often easily seen. Imbalance will manifest as weight problems, financial problems, emotional problems, stress problems, or sleep problems. These imbalances will many times overlap and feed each other. This path of imbalance is one of self destruction. We must begin to moderate our path with our moment by moment choices.

How do we do that?

The antidote to too much internal and external motion is stillness. In concept and function it is very simple. Yet in application it is very difficult for most. This is because for many people, the ego has assumed control of the path we walk and it chooses distraction and sensation seeking as the central purpose in life. The only way to control the ego is to transcend it grip. This is done through meditation. Meditation is the transition to a higher state of consciousness where the true self is realized. When we stop and allow stillness to merge with being, we begin to restore balance.

There is even a clincal term for this act of nature. Dr. Herbert Benson refers to it as
“The Relaxation Response”. His book clearly defines and shows what happens with the mind body relationship when we become still.

Stillness is restoration. What we restore is balance to both the internal and external. As we sit still and the mind becomes quiet, the body will follow. What happens across our mental landscape is reflected (extended and experienced) across our physical landscape. When we concentrate our attention (awareness) outside of thinking, and allow the mind to become still, the body will follow.

As we sit in stillness, the opposite of the stress response begins to process. In stillness (the relaxation response), the heart slows, the breathing becomes deeper and slower. Blood pressure drops, the immune system activates, more oxygen is available, and most importantly, the body will release a different set of hormones that will bring about a feeling of peace. Other research now shows that regular mediation (stillness) helps to restore chromosome damage by restoration to the tips of the telemeres. (Read what Sage Dr. Deepak Chopra says about this process)

Stillness (meditation/relaxation response) slows down the aging process through efficient cell repair. I know from personal experience how effective it can be for healing sickness.

Through the practice of stillness, we can restore our emotional state, solve problems, reduce debt, become healthy, experience well being and live longer. I submit that this is very powerful indeed.

Think about it for a moment. Nature has even built in the requirement for a return to stillness. With very few exceptions, everyone one of us must sleep at some point. This is nature’s way of making us restore ourselves even when we do not have the sense to do it by choice. We can fight, resist and prolong it, but sleep will eventually overtake us. And this is because we must spend time in restoration (stillness). So, quit fighting with stillness. This is just ego.

If you can practice self discipline (ego management), you can craft your life into its optimum experience. Please… don’t fight with nature, learn to flow with nature. Balance life’s action phases with stillness phases.

Just find time to be still. Find a park bench, a porch swing, a bean bag or lay on a picnic blanket and watch the clouds in their ever changing patterns. Allow the mind/body to become still so that you can restore the ability to experience life.

From stillness we come and to stillness we will return. It is the underlying reality of being-ness. Stress is created when we resist and go against the flow of life in either the spiritual or physical realms. Learn to merge with nature and experience harmony. This is the power of mystic virtue. This is the power of stillness.