Being still is an art, not a science. Being still isn’t something anyone else can tell us how to do, and it isn’t something we can tell ourselves how to do either. Being still (or peaceful) in the face of life’s adversities is the greatest art there is and it is also the most difficult. Somehow, however, we never seem to appreciate just how extraordinarily helpful this art is. For one thing, we don’t value being still (we actually don’t see the point in it) and for another we imagine that if we wanted to be still (for whatever reason) then we could do so quite easily.
The only reason we imagine that we could be still quite easily (if that’s what we do believe) is because we’ve never actually looked into the matter. We’re assuming that it’s something we can do, if we have to. If we had looked into it then we would have discovered that not only is it very difficult, it actually seems to be impossible. The more we try to be still the less still we become. If we want to be still then that’s because we aren’t, obviously enough but if we aren’t still then how can we expect stillness to come out of this? As Krishnamurti says (although not in exactly these words), if we start off from a position of being violent and we want to be non-violent, then our attempts to be non-violent will necessarily have a violent quality to them, and so this will perpetuate violence rather than ending it. There is no way to end violence with violence – the more we try to end violence the more violent we become.
There is no violent method to bring an end to violence and all the methods are violent. All methods are violent because all methods are about changing the situation from ‘the way it is’ to ‘the way we want it to be’ on this – in the psychological sense – is the very definition of violence. In the same way we can say that all rules are violent; Rules are necessarily violent since they are always insisting that things be a certain way. Rules don’t give us any choice, after all -they tell us what to do, they control or determine us and this is – psychologically speaking – pure violence. It’s the opposite of freedom. This is why being still can never be achieved by scientific/technological means, because technology is all about control. Art never has anything to do with control, never has anything to do with goals. Goals are a duplication (or reiteration) of our existing thoughts and there is nothing creative about this.
We can’t make stillness into a goal, in other words. This tends to sound strange to us because we think that anything can quite legitimately be turned into a goal. That’s what we think but it just isn’t so. That’s only our assumption. If stillness were a goal then this would mean that we could create it, and not just create it but ‘make it to order’, whenever it suits us. That’s what technology means. The state of being still isn’t our own creation (isn’t our own construct) however and it never can be. Peacefulness can never come about as a result of our own ‘doing’ because anything we do is always an assertion, always a forced state of affairs. How can peace or stillness be ‘a forced state of affairs’? Just as soon as we ask this question we realise that this is an impossibility – peace never comes about as a result of activities that we perform because peace or stillness is the absence of activity, the absence of agitation, the absence of trying.
The fact that it is flatly impossible to arrive at a state of stillness via manipulation or control is abundantly obvious once we take the trouble to look into it and this realization naturally enough tends to have a distinctly deflating effect on us. Peace seems unattainable, and in one way it is it’s unattainable just as long as we keep looking for it. Peace isn’t something to be attained, like a prize in a fairground game. This turns out not to be a problem however – it only seems to be when we look at things ‘from the outside,’ as it were. The reason the state of stillness isn’t a goal – and can’t ever be a goal – is because it is the ‘unmanipulated situation’ that’s the state of being we find ourselves in when we aren’t trying to stay in control (which is practically never).
Far from being a goal therefore, ‘being peaceful’ is something that happens all by itself when we drop all our goals, when we wholeheartedly give them up, which is a negative rather than a positive action (which is to say, it’s not something we do but rather something that we refrain from doing, and ‘refraining from doing something’ isn’t a positive act. It’s not something we can ever ‘do on purpose’. This would seem incomprehensible to most of us but the point is that we can never understand anything important in life – life itself (and this business of ‘living’) is something that no one understands. We don’t need to understand life and if we think we do then this stops us living life – instead, we live our ‘idea’ of life, which is a different thing entirely.
There is a hidden problem that rears its head when we try to be peaceful, or try to be still, and that is that everything we deliberately do we do on behalf of the idea we have of ourselves. The idea we have of ourselves isn’t real however – it’s only an idea – and so we’re trying to obtain stillness for a self that isn’t there, a self that only exists in our imaginations, and that isn’t ever going to happen. There can never be any peace for the imaginary self. The idea that we have about ‘who we are’ can never be still; it can never be still because it is a product of thought’s ceaseless purposeful activity – it comes about as a result of our ‘unacknowledged manipulation’, so to speak. Peacefulness was there all along, in other words, but just not for the idea we have of ourselves. Being still is the one thing the idea of ourselves can never be and yet ‘dropping our idea of ourselves’ (unsurprisingly enough) is not something that we are in any hurry to do…