Only Stillness Can Change Us

Jean Klein


Image of the WeekYour real self, your true nature is what is closest to you: it is yourself. Each step taken to reach it moves you further away from there. Attention is not inside nor outside, so you can never go to meditation. When you try to meditate you create a state, you have a goal you are trying to achieve. Meditation is not a reduction, not a kind of interiorization. So that when there is still even the slightest anticipation of going somewhere, or achieving something you go away – because meditation is your natural state, presence IS. The mind can be still from time to time, but the nature of the mind is activity, is function. Your body can be empty, relaxed from time to time, but your body is also function. It is therefore a violence against nature to attempt to stop the mind or body functions.

The mind must come to a state of silence, completely empty of fear, longing and all images. This cannot be brought about by suppression, but by observing every feeling and thought without qualification, condemnation, judgement, or comparison. If unmotivated alertness is to operate the censor must disappear. There must simply be a quiet looking at what composes the mind. In discovering the facts just as they are, agitation is eliminated, the movement of thoughts becomes slow and we can watch each thought, its cause and content as it occurs. We become aware of every thought in its completeness and in this totality there can be no conflict. Then only alertness remains, only silence in which there is neither observer nor observed. So do not force your mind. Just watch its various movements as you would look at flying birds. In this uncluttered looking all your experiences surface and unfold. For unmotivated seeing not only generates tremendous energy but frees all tension, all the various layers of inhibitions. You see the whole of yourself. Observing everything with full attention becomes a way of life, a return to your original and natural meditative being.

It is only through silent awareness that our physical and mental nature can change. This change is completely spontaneous. If we make an effort to change we do no more than shift our attention from one level, from one thing, to another. We remain in a vicious circle. This only transfers energy from one point to another. It still leaves us oscillating between suffering and pleasure, each leading inevitably back to the other. Only living stillness, stillness without someone trying to be still, is capable of undoing the conditioning our biological, emotional and psychological nature has undergone. There is no controller, no selector, no personality making choices. In choiceless living the situation is given the freedom to unfold. You do not grasp one aspect over another for there is nobody to grasp. When you understand something and live it without being stuck to the formulation, what you have understood dissolves in your openness. In this silence change takes place of its own accord, the problem is resolved and duality ends. 

Excerpted from "I Am" by Jean Klein, a philosopher of Advaita Vedanta. Source

Seed questions for reflection: What does silent awareness mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time living stillness helped you undo your biological, emotional or psychological conditioning? How do you reconcile the freedom to unfold found in choiceless living with the freedom to choose?

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13 Previous Reflections:

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    On Aug 21, 2021 Elaine Gotfryd Noonan wrote:
    Living in stillness and full observation of thoughts, emotions and the whole self is key to avoiding a back and forth activity in the mind which can perpetuate restlessness and promote mental activity.Unmotivated alertness and quiet looking is how the author names the state of meditation desired. For me, relaxed breathing helps.

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    On Aug 10, 2021 Nilesh Thali wrote:
    Based on my reading of the excerpt, i really feel like it should say, "because meditation is NOT your natural state, presence IS" (added "not" in the statement).
    Hence,logistical question: could it be that we are incorrectly attributing this as "excerpted from I Am"? i just downloaded the pdf of the book and tried to search for this line and couldn't find it anywhere. or did we paraphrase what we thought the author was saying?

    2 replies: David, Somik | Post Your Reply
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    On Aug 10, 2021 Michael wrote:
    The "simplicity of what is" as writer Joan Tollifson" emphasizes. Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply: Colombe | Post Your Reply
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    On Aug 6, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    Jean Klein states "because meditation is your natural state, Presence is." Presence is your real self. Silent awareness of Presence is meditation. It's an abiding in Presence. Meditation isn't trying to accomplish something or get some where. It isn't trying to stop one's body or mind functioning. Meditation is going past one's body and mind and into the oneness of one's real self. For me, awareness occurs in living stillness, and awareness makes for change. Awareness resulted in the undoing of my conditioning. I didn't consciously undo my conditioning or try to undo my conditioning, it happened with awareness, openness, and allowing. Choiceless living is living without making any intentional choices. In choiceless living, I suspend my freedom to choose and allow myself to simply live. The freedom to unfold found in choiceless living and the freedom to choose are reconciled in that I have the freedom to choose choiceless living or not.

    2 replies: David, Barbara | Post Your Reply
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    On Aug 6, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Silent awareness or witness consciousness is as J Krishnamurti says is"choiceless awareness", or emptiness or suchnessor isness as the Buddha says. Silent awareness is stillness in the mind. In such stillness bodily sensations ariseand go, thoughts arise and go, emotions arise and go.

    I experience such silent awareness when I am fully absorbed in doing what I am doing such as reading, listening to music, and meditating. In such experiencesthe observer and the observed become one. The wave becomes the ocean. It is a spiritual union.

    What is freedom? Freedom from whom or what? When the subject-object dividing line is dissolved it is an experience of oneness. In such unitive consciousness there is an experience of oneness, the Divine Union. To put it in Non-dual Vedanticterm, it is Self-realization.

    Jagdish P Dave

    3 replies: Jo, Matangi, Aj | Post Your Reply

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