Teaching October 2009: Stillness, Peace and Healing

Teaching #2 October 2009

I much enjoy e-mail conversations with Gill Siefer, a well-respected Psychotherapist in New York and a spiritual adept who I count as a friend and one of the Elders. (seifer@verizon.net ). We are both about 80 and both suffer from the disease of continually asking “and….?” I hope the conversations will continue.

You may like to read a recent part of this conversation;

Gil says ….. I have come across some teaching of Ramana Marharshi about Stillness. I would like some feedback as to what he says Stillness is and I quote .”What does Stillness mean? It means destroy yourself because every name and form is the cause of trouble. I am this, is the ego. The experience of I Am of being Still is the SELF.

Since your work is with Stillness can you accept what he is talking about?

I replied…

Dear Gil,

Thank you for that.

Ramana Maharshi was a great teacher. I believe that his internal clarity was entirely evident His eyes expressed that clarity beautifully, even when his body was dying from a malignant and painful cancer.

That Self, that “who he really was”-and is- was incarnated but was not the form of the incarnation, as best as I can possibly understand it from this unenlightened position. I think one could say that all forms, not excluding his body, are an expression of that Self, which was only conceptually and egoically, his.

I totally accept what he is talking about, in your quotation, Linguistically, I balk a little at the word destroy. I prefer the notion of becoming aware, in Stillness, a never-ending practice, of that which holds us detached from that Unity, and from that expanding awareness, seeing if we still need that separation, and if we do not, surrendering it. Effectively the same as destroying it, perhaps, but conceptually, less ego driven, than destroying it.

I call the habituations that keep us separate from the Self, undigested life experience. They are an elaborate construct. Just that, something that we have painstakingly constructed in order to retain a self identity, (this self, with a small s is, of course the ego) resulting in a masking of that state of being that I understand as being Being itself, which we might also call the Self. It is a JOKE, that the source of all fear is a non existent construct. Non-existent in the sense of not inherent and without substantiality other than in the relative sense.

I conjecture that absolute Stillness is not different from Emptiness, the potentiality of everything, not yet expressed in form. It is also inherent in the coming into form of all forms.

Talking about this, conceptualising this, is part of my attempt at becoming aware of all that stuff that I need to surrender. I realise that these words are not the experience.

I have no doubt that Ramana had the experience, solidly. I have just about experienced it in brief encounters and have then tried to hang on to it, when it has already gone. I think we probably all have.

It seems to me that there is a useful, relative Stillness, which is the observation of everything arising, call it chaos, without any judgment, just observation. The witness of creation, you could call it. I suppose the absolute awareness would be the experience of creation. If that experience were truly there, than there would be no difference between the creation and the creator. At the relative level there has to be a separate, pre-existing material from which the creation is created so, at the relative level, there can be no sense in the word infinite, it is merely a concept held by a self, which ridiculously, is somehow separate from the Self. NOTHING is not the Self!!

Sometimes, I am very drawn to just sit, in silence. I think I might do more good like that. It does not appear to be my karma, though.

Sometimes, I think the Self is absolutely, “the Bliss of Being Ordinary”. Just getting on with doing whatever I am doing, in some sort of awareness. Presence.

Wanting Wisdom is such a big distraction.

Sometimes, a zone shows up where I can just sit, quietly, or not, and listen to what comes out of the compost without trying to “work” with it and I learn to trust that that is wisdom. The Teaching not the Teacher.

Much love,


This leads on nicely to my own take on stillness.


I Do Nothing,
and the people transform themselves.
I love Stillness,

and the people bring themselves to correctness.
I do No Work,
and the people enrich themselves.
1 have no desires,
and the people by themselves become Simple.

“The Dao of the Dao de Ching”. Translated by Michael Lafargue.

Stillness is dynamic. It is a state of being where whatever arises into awareness is noticed, without the attachment that necessitates a re-action. We so easily react into doing something whereas all that is needed is recognition, without mental commentary and judgment.

Stillness is not inactivity. It is, rather, the natural state of everything when it is not doing something. I think we could equate it with Intelligence itself which people call God, Brahma, The Dao, The Source, The Beloved and other names, before it takes form. There is emptiness of action but not emptiness of potency or awareness. The motor is idling, it is not in gear but it is certainly running.

The value of stillness, is that it represents the potential for the manifestation or coming into form, of everything.

Where is stillness? Stillness is always at the heart of the present moment. Stillness is the place between the notes. Stillness is the place where I am not dis-empowered by all my yesterdays or my tomorrows. I am present!

If stillness is desirable, then we must consider what the route to it is. How do I get a piece of it?

This is the tricky thing about stillness, we can’t achieve it; we can’t acquire it; we do not earn it and we certainly cannot buy it. “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mat. 19:24), means exactly that! We do not reach stillness by trying harder but rather by surrendering our busy-ness; the incessant activity of the ego. The same activity by which the ego gets its sense of identity and precisely that which keeps it separate from its source. The rich man gains entry by surrender to God, as do all of us.

I would like to suppose that we have all experienced moments of Stillness and have found those moments creative. Perhaps a moment when we feel completely at ease with where we are and who we are. There may, or may not be someone else present but there is no demand for any action or reaction. The situation just is and we receive it. If there is another present, be it a baby, say, or a lover, there is no demand, each receives the presence of the other and the relationship, and herself in the relationship. This is stillness in joint practice. In all joint practice there is a synergy which is greater than the sum of its parts and this is the magnification of the power of stillness, of non-doing, inherent in relationship.

When I can cultivate this surrender and touch the stillness at my core, I experience that it is possible to approach another from that level of being and connect with him there. It is like saying we can approach the health of another person that lies under, innermost to is perhaps better, all their (and my) suffering. If we remember that at our core is stillness then so it is at her core. The dramatic statement that arises from this is, that to be in contact at that level of being is to be not separate, but one. There is no longer a me and a you. From this place of potential unformed, comes the possibility of re-birth, right now. Such, is the power of stillness.

People need to be heard. They do not need to be judged or told how they should be; they simply need to be heard in their pain, confusion and fear. To be heard is to be healed and to be heard deeply is to be healed deeply. I do not know where I first heard this but I experience it to be true.

Being heard in stillness is like is like looking into a clean mirror; what is shown is what is. The mirror has no wise comments to make, no advice to give, it just reflects. If I can see what really is; simply, starkly, what is; I know what to do. In that moment, I have become still and in my stillness, present; and when I am present I am no longer the disempowered bundle of reactions that I am most of the time; I am at least temporarily, awake. Awake, I can be pro-active and useful; I have re-incarnated from my dis-empowerment.

All this seems to be implied in the stanza at the beginning of this offering. There is too, a further point in the last line, that all of this is without intentionality, simple, normal, uncomplicated. It is the way that I live most of the time in identification with my habits and patterns, that is pathological. Let us call it a state of suffering, or un-satisfactoriness.

People know me as a therapist; I recognize that label and that is what I do. It may not be who I am but that is another story. For half of my eighty years I have been a practicing therapist: a counselor, an acupuncturist and, for many years now, a craniosacral therapist. For the last fifteen years, or so, I have been teaching. In the course of teaching, I have come to realize that, whatever we do, whether it is a therapy or not, what needs real attention is where we are coming from when we do what we do. I give this precedence over the techniques of the form of what we are doing. This is certainly not the intellectual or scientific approach; it demands continuing awareness, in stillness to what is revealing itself right now, without diagnosis, prognosis or remedy.

This could seem to be anarchic and it is not easy. It is a state of unknowing in which there are no answers, only revelation. The final expression of revelation is the core, or heart, where there is no pathology.

The route, possibly the only route to the innermost or core, is via stillness, as any engagement or judgment will arrest the revelation. The intellect analyses, that is its function but analysis by definition, is a reduction to what can be understood, and an arrest of flow.

Some years ago I spent a few hours beside Niagara falls. Whilst there, I wrote this: I spent quite some time beside these magnificent falls, studying the stillness in that incredible motion. There is something that moves and there is something that is just there and absolutely still. This I suggest, is the Spirit of the falls rather than its material. You can best appreciate this by becoming the fall.

Stillness is not something that we do. It is being, being at the centre of our true selves. This still centre is in all of us; we share that with the Universe itself. This place, in the stillness of the centre is dynamic. “At the still-point of the turning world…..there the dance is”. T.S.Eliot

There is no suffering in stillness. There is an end to suffering in the reconnection with the centre. The function of healing therefore is to re-establish in the stillness.

It is said that the whole universe unfolded and continues to unfold, out of absolute imminence. To be truly in the present where there is no past and no future could be said to be in touch with that imminence, and the possibility of a different, unshackled, not dis-empowered, way of being. The purpose of this work is the exploration of that possibility and one way to achieve it.

Let us continue opening to the experience of stillness as a felt sense in the body. If we experience it, good, if that is not what is being shown, good, whatever comes in to awareness just is and, by not attaching to it, fixing on it, a space opens up for something else to reveal itself until we finally get to the place that is within all form. I also call that place Peace.

If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.
Chuang Tzu

The important teaching in this quotation is not that the universe is still: it isn’t; it is in constant motion, but that the mirror is clean and unobstructed. This means that my mind is in repose, aware of all movements, including the movements and excitement of my own senses, but just not caught up with them or attached to their activities. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this statement. So many people complain that their brain keeps chattering away when they are supposed to be meditating or being still. That is the nature of the brain.

It does that. It is alive!

The paradox is that if we can find a way of not feeding that activity with the energy of our attention, it, the activity may, like all forms of life when not nourished, just drop away and give up. Suddenly, there may come a moment when we realize that we have been in the space between the notes and there has been real stillness. What a beautiful music! The sound of silence can be heard!

This sound cannot be heard whilst we are busily trying harder to get rid of the chatter; but is already there at the moment we surrender to the insecurity of not trying, not knowing. It reveals itself!

This is nicely illustrated by the following which is feedback from one student on her experience of being with another during a recent training.

I was feeling extremely tired and sitting with a cup of tea in the kitchen.

Mary came and sat down with me and after a while said that she could see that I was exhausted. She took my hand in hers and held it on her lap and we continued talking about this and that.

Then whilst general conversation was going on around us I could feel that she was giving me a treatment and it felt wonderful.

I said to her Mary – you’re giving me a treatment and she just smiled. It felt like through her hands was strength and a resource that was like a mountain. It was through the stillness that is familiar to me. I know this work having been a student of Mike’s and practicing both as practitioner and patient.

One thing that was particularly noticeable was when she then put her hand on my foot and seemed to be trying to make the treatment even better, the sensation of the stillness and the power of that stillness disappeared completely.

I felt supported and enlivened by the treatment she gave me and it was really good to be in touch with that in her and in me.

This is exactly as received and emphasizes the difference between the absolute receptivity contained in Being as opposed to the action of Doing. It is so hard to just Trust and be, isn’t it? And yet, and yet, this is the only way we are going to transcend the limitations of our knowing….. and touch the core.

I experience the grace of stillness in bursts. I wish, of course that I could say I lived in it but I recognize that that is my ego-ic self talking. I can think of two particular occasions when stillness took form and changed things for me: one was a couple of tears ago when I was sitting in absolute peace in my garden one evening. There was no thing to do, at that moment.

A sensation arose through my feet of a massive expansion of everything; incredibly powerful, very slow and majestic. There was also a sense of sound, although it was not audible. It was the Earth breathing and I was much moved. Was I mad? I don’t know but I fancy not as throughout there was an awareness of watching myself having this experience and then trying to hang on to it.

The other was very recently, when on a break from working with a very lovely group of people, I stepped outside for a rest and just stood still. A very strange experience grew that the whole field of view and everything in it was pouring out of my eyes. That too went, just about the moment I started thinking about what was happening. Again, was it reality? I do not know and does it matter? There are many realities.

At a much less dramatic level and more frequently, when I am teaching I become aware of some change of state. It is not dramatic and I recognize it as a parallel to the “zone” that I have felt, many years ago, when I was an athlete. In this state, I trust what I am saying and just listen to it. There is no fear and all questions get an answer that satisfies.

Stillness is the source and what comes out of this source does not get filtered through the ego, so there is no fear in this state. I no longer have to worry about the status, experience or learning of the questioner. I just trust.

Then we all have a coffee and some cake.

Stillness is not inactivity - photo by Colin Clark (At Victoria Falls)

Stillness is not inactivity - photo by Colin Clark

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One Response to “Teaching October 2009: Stillness, Peace and Healing”

  1. Mary Says:

    Thank you, Mike, for sharing this… for sharing yourself… for helping me love just that little bit more… effortless love…

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