Thursday, January 17, 2008

silence and surprise

Why silence? Silence creates a rare opportunity to pause and drop into stillness, to become intimate with your own mind. So often we have things to do, places to be, people to see. In our busy lives, our minds are full and reactive. When we start the journey to attune to our own minds by pausing into stillness, we enter a new realm of experience that can produce surprise in each moment.

One surprise is that the mind is never "empty". It is an oft stated and apparent misconception that the meditative mind becomes a vacuum of activity. The mind is a busy bee flitting around its neural hive. Some approach silence thinking that their minds will soon be empty only to find just the opposite to be true.

As the stillness permits the mind to "settle", it becomes possible to be aware of the subtleties in the fine structures of the mind's functions. Stillness is not the same as a void in activity, it's more like a STABILIZING STRENGTH.

Another surprise is to experience the transient ever-changing nature of the activity of the mind. When busy in the chatter of daily life, our thoughts and feelings can take on an air of solidity and permanence that hides their true effervescent nature. With stillness, it becomes possible to peel away this surface solidity to reveal the cloudlike vaporous quality of mental activity.

Yet another surprise is the ways in which distinct streams of awareness intermix to create the texture of awareness in the moment. The terms quality of awareness or nature of awareness reveal that awareness itself changes from moment to moment.

If we state that the quality of awareness in this moment is murky, how are we aware of awareness? Can we have a clear awareness of a murky quality of awareness? Metaprocesses like these, like meta-awareness, give rise to the name of our species, Homo sapiens, sapiens: The Knowing, knowing ones. We know that we know. (Kabat-Zinn, 2003b)

Taken from: The Mindful Brain - Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel J. Siegel

More Resources:

Insight Meditation Society
The Maha-Satipatthana Sutta
University of Massachusetts Medical School - Center for Mindfulness
Wherever you go, there you are - Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Zen Brain Reflections by James Austin

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