There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.
In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes.
Rumi, as quoted in The Essential Rumi
In our existence on this earthly plane, a feature one can rely on is change. We experience change every moment and in everything around us, for better or for worse. While change can be perceived as part of the flow of life, it can also be synonymous with disruption and trigger distress. An external change promotes ceaseless mental and emotional chatter within. It diffuses the mind with a multitude of emotions, thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes, creating a mental whirlpool. And whether one realizes it or not, that is suffering!
To respond to this suffering, we may look to various remedies to calm the mind – like trying to relax by doing breathing exercises, going for a walk, talking to someone, or even going on a retreat. While these efforts may offer momentary relief, the change that causes this anxiety and the mind that perceives it go with us everywhere. So it seems futile to seek tranquility in an ever-changing environment.
While we cannot control external changes by introducing stillness in our lives, we can certainly cope with it. When the mind is disturbed by changes in our life, stillness can give us clarity, helping us to deal with those changes better. But first we need to acknowledge that as a result of our attention being scattered in this illusive world, it is difficult to control and still our mind. Even acknowledging this fact can be a major step to self-realization.
So how then can we still this mind to experience inner calm? As saints in the past and present advise, the solution is focused attention and contemplation at the eye centre with the practice of meditation. Meditation helps us find our centre of being where we can experience that captivating silence and stillness, that state of bliss and peace.
As Guru Amardas Ji says:
When the soul’s light merges with the supreme light
and the chastened mind stands still,
we are exalted at the gate of the Lord.
Quoted in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II
The following story illustrates this: One fine morning, just before their daily spiritual discourse began, the villagers realized that their guru was missing. Alarmed, they were consumed by panic and anxiety. So setting aside their fears, they devised a plan to find the guru by splitting up into groups, covering the entire area of the land. Yet, despite their searching tirelessly all day and throughout the night, the guru could not be found. Eventually, after an exhaustive search covering every possibility, the villagers returned, overcome by grief. Deeply disturbed, they were now convinced that their guru had fallen victim to some kind of foul play.
The villagers were troubled and miserable. Not knowing what to do next, they gathered together and sat down in silent agony calling out his name. The pain in their hearts could be felt throughout the valley, as waves of longing and sadness filled the air. Realizing their helplessness, they cried to the guru for the guru. Suddenly, when a hush fell upon the tormented village and not even a leaf stirred, the villagers raised their heads only to find the guru on top of the hillock, sitting in silence. At that moment, the villagers realized that only in silence and stillness, could they find what they were seeking.
If we give in to the commotion of this material existence, we will only find ourselves more lost and confused. So the saints tell us to still the disturbed mind by going within. As Guru Ramdas proclaims from his own experience:
This mind does not hold still, even for an instant.
Distracted by all sorts of distractions,
I have found the perfect Guru, through great good fortune;
he has given me the mantra of the Lord’s Name,
and my mind has become quiet and tranquil.
Quoted in The Spiritual Guide, Vol. II
When the Master bestows the precious gift of Nam on the disciple, he also grants him the grace to meditate and the strength to raise his attention inward and upward. But it is up to the disciple to nurture and develop that strength through constant and consistent practice.
Develop the power to withdraw your attention, at will, from the outward objects and from the physical body, and concentrate it in the eye focus.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems