At the Center of Each of Us Is a Great Stillness

At the center of each of us is a great stillness. It is not the stillness of death, but rather the stillness from which all life springs. It is a stillness and a silence that can never be disturbed or penetrated, though our awareness of it is fragile and easily disturbed.

Physical sensations, emotions and thoughts can pull us away from this stillness. Those sensations, emotions and thoughts are like stones thrown into a still pool of water. They create disturbances that can ripple out, interfere with one another and reinforce one another. These may lead to action, but it is inefficient at best, destructive at worst. Or, sensations, emotions and thoughts can be like the vibrations created on a fine musical instrument. They harmonize and make music.

On a deeper level, of course, it is all music. But our job here, our purpose, with these large brains and powerful consciousness, is to guide the formation of disturbance to the silence towards harmony and away from chaos.
Some things break the silence more deeply than others. The sudden crack of the ice compressing on a frozen lake deep in an otherwise silent wilderness forest, or a thought that gives rise to shame as you are waking in the morning. These things can touch you deeply, reverberating through your days. They change you, sometimes in ways you don’t want. Shame can take you to a lonely dull ache that lives in your chest and filters every thought and perception you have. The intrusion of nature into your mind can startle you into a realization that you—your separateness, your identity—are an illusion, that in ways your intellect will never grasp, you and the crack of the ice on the lake and the forest all unfold and evolve together, threads in the rich, tight fabric of life.

Other things don’t penetrate the silence; they are mere ripples on the surface. The sound of the dog lapping its water; a brief memory that rises to the surface of thought then disappears again. These are inconsequential; they leave you unchanged.

But of course nothing actually breaks the silence. It can’t be broken or penetrated in any way. It is always present beyond, and including, all existence. It is sometimes called God. What is broken is your connection to it, your awareness of it, your ability to be immersed in it.

If everyone had a contemplative practice, a way of at least approaching the silence, all lives would be better.