Unconditioned Stillness

Rick Hanson


Image of the WeekStillness, a sense of the unchanging, is all around. 

For example, it’s not the ultimate stillness, but there is that lovely feeling when the house is quiet and you’re sitting in peace, the dishes are done and the kids are fine (or the equivalent), and you can really let down and let go. In your character, you have enduring strengths and virtues and values; situations change, but your good intentions persist. In relationships, love abides -- even for people who drive you crazy!

More subtly, there is the moment at the very top of a tossed ball’s trajectory when it’s neither rising nor falling, the pause before the first stroke of the brush, that space between exhalation and inhalation, the silence in which sounds occur, or the discernible gap between thoughts when your mind is quiet.

In your mind there is always an underlying calm and well-being that contains emotional reactions, like a riverbed that is still even as the flood rushes over it. There is also the unchanging field of awareness, itself never altered by the thoughts passing through it.

More abstractly, 2+2=4 forever; the area of a circle will always be pi times the radius squared; etc. The fact that something has occurred will never change. The people who have loved you will always have loved you; they will always have found you lovable. Whatever is fundamentally true -- including, ironically, the truth of impermanence -- has an unchanging stillness at its heart. Things change, but the nature of things -- emergent, interdependent, transient -- does not.

Moving toward ultimate matters, and where language fails, you may have a sense of something unchangingly transcendental, divine. Or, perhaps related, an intuition of that which is unconditioned always just prior to the emergence of conditioned phenomena.

Wherever you find it, enjoy stillness and let it feed you. It’s a relief from the noise and bustle, a source of clarity and peace. Give yourself the space, the permission, to be still -- at least in your mind -- amidst those who are busy. 

To use a traditional saying: May that which is still be that in which your mind delights.

Rick Hanson is an author and scientist. You can learn via his Awakin Call.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion of an unchanging stillness as a container that holds all impermanence? Can you share a personal story of a time you felt this unchanging stillness? What helps you delight in your stillness?

Add Your Reflection:

8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Jun 4, 2019 Sheila wrote:
    Stillness is to me an awareness of home - home in myself where I now am and the journey I have taken to date. It is in me when I am at home in the place I live, in the garden I love to spend time in which is now so green. In walking in nature and breathing in the air. I am grateful now to be aware of and open to receiving what stillness brings to me. 🙏🏻

    1 reply: Thank | Post Your Reply
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    On Jun 4, 2019 Ginny wrote:
    Beautiful and helpful in understanding the unchanging nature of impermanence. And comfort in knowing that the love you have received is always there in your experience even if it is in some perceived idea of the past.

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    On Jun 4, 2019 deepak dalal wrote:
    i felt stillness in different manners and i enjoyed that as something which joins head and tail of a coin and makes it real coin. stilness makes our life real like that .

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    On Jun 3, 2019 LILLYAN ST. LOUIS wrote:

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    On Jun 2, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    What is unchanging and constant is change, impermanence, uncertainty, oneness. Acceptance of those unchanging truths and abiding in them is an unchanging stillness that is a container that holds impermanence and the other truths about life. I certainly don't live in that container, but when I do enter it I am in unchanging stillness. I have had times of feeling this unchanging stillness when I abide in awareness that we are one and that change, impermanence, and uncertainty simply are, and such times occur during times of being immersed in the present and times that are meditative. What helps me delight in my stillness is knowing it's available for me to accept and knowing the delight and peace and fulfillment that it provides.

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    On May 31, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Our thoughts, feelings and actions are expressed in response to stimuli. If they are expressed automatically and unmindfully, they can cause harm and suffering.There is unconditioned space, stillness, between stimulus and response.Out thoughts, feelings and actions change. The space is unchanging like the sky without clouds. The unchanging clear sky is a container of the changing clouds. The clear mind is like the clear sky, the container of the changing thoughts, feelings, and actions-the mind stuff.
    I feel the unconditioned stillness when my mind is clear and
    calm.This happens when I am fully engaged and absorbed in an activity. My mind is fully alive and vibrant in the space filled with the unchanging stillness. Such active mind in the inner stillness brings delight, light and fullness.
    Daily practice of meditation and relating to what I do in my everyday life makes my life meaningful and joyful.
    Jagdish P Dave

    1 reply: Anil | Post Your Reply

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