Have you ever watched a mother hold her new child, or seen a doe gently nuzzle her fawn as it stood there balancing on uncertain legs? Did you ever stand outside in the still air washed clean by the passage of a spring storm, or feel yourself moved by the sight of tall trees swaying in a summer’s breeze? Maybe your imagination has been caught and held still as you stood looking out over a rugged seacoast, or you’ve found your attention willingly arrested by some late-afternoon light whose colors made heaven seem not so far away.
All moments like these share a quality of quietness that is timeless, even as they whisper these traits to us in the perfectly present Now. The silence of such stillness is golden because it is uncorrupted; its quiet presence within us enlarges us because through our communion with it, we are entered into a relationship with the peace of a vital Now beyond the reach of time.
This full peace, which we might also call stillness or perfect silence, is what our heart of hearts longs to know. Within it there is neither stress nor sorrow. Yet, while most of us agree we seek a way to commingle in the life of this deep quiet, its timeless realm remains all but imperceptible to us. Here is the reason why: it is a curious spiritual fact that we don’t see stillness, even though it acts as the backdrop for all motion.
A short analogy will take us a long way. If we went to a cinema expecting to see a story unfold, complete with movie stars, scenery, action and interaction, but there was no screen in the theater to act as a backdrop for the projection, the showing of that movie would be meaningless. One would see no more than a whirl of indistinguishable light and phantom-like motions projected onto the various protruding walls at the back of the room.
Can we begin to see, in this instance, how the movie screen — that silent backdrop of white stillness that reflects the projected images — is equally essential to our understanding of all the activity that we see displayed upon it? Can we begin to see how, without the former in place as a constant, the latter has virtually no context and therefore no real consequence? Much in the same way as the screen in the theater makes it possible for us to see the action-packed motions of the movie, it is an unseen stillness that reveals what we experience as being the ceaseless movement of life.
With this insight in mind, can we recognize how unaware we are at present of this abiding stillness in which we move and live? It’s not that this stillness isn’t there —- it is! The fact is that it is we, ourselves, who are not present to this unchanging presence! This is a helpful discovery for us to make. Through it, we are able to see that everything that concerns our relationship with fundamental peace depends upon where we place and hold our attention from moment to moment.