In Stillness: A 10 minute chant and meditation

Before leaving for Denmark where I taught a course at Kaos Pilots, Aleksandra and I recorded a 10 minute chant and meditation, which I have included below. One morning before dawn we sat as usual on meditation cushions. Aleksandra held an iPhone up to her mouth and chanted this two stanza poem.

An earlier version of the poem came to me while I was in Aarhus preparing to teach last year’s course at Kaos Pilots. I have since revised it again and again. Yet it was only Aleksandra’s final revision, on that morning when she intoned these words, that brought out the poem’s simple, intoxicating beauty.

I

Come

Sit in

Silence

In

Stillness

II

Oh my

Mind fasts

It stills

Is full

‘The morning tree wavers, but the mind does not…’

A poetic chant that came to me before a philosophical conversation earlier today.

*

1

The morning tree wavers, but the mind does not.

The mind, unwavering, is full of stillness.

2

When one thing comes to it, the mind takes the thing in hand.

That and that thing only.

When another thing comes to it, then the mind takes that thing in hand.

That and that thing only.

3

When each thing comes to it, the mind comes to it with ease.

The transition is as natural as the music sounding through the morning tree.

The mind, unmoving, listens still.

Holding presence of mind amid the turning world

I meditate.

Be quiet. You fill. Silent. Hold.

Be still. You squiggle. Softly. Squirm. Softly. Still and softly.

Be clear. You muddy, jumble, convolve. Be clear, clear, clear.

Be empty.

I sway and bend meltingly. Meditate.

Be silent. [Pause]

Be still. [Pause]

Be clear. [Pause]

Empty. [Pause]

Whisper this again. Breathe: the world is thick, now, dense, now, deeper and more significant. Sway this.

Rest here with mud.

Silent.

Still.

Clear.

Empty.

Sober joy or quiet calm: who knows what name it goes by but it goes by unnamably.

Empty the tongue completely.

The quietness of the intelligent man

Kenko does well to stress the intelligent man’s quietness in company. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Some men, out of pride or vanity or ennui, profess to be experts in some esoteric subject while not a few others add to the dullness of the evening by having an opinion about everything passed around the table. They can speak at length about almost anything that, catching the breeze, is carried onto their tongues.

But the man who knows something yet holds his tongue is a rarity. He does not, says Kenko, spew his words about, hoping that they will land on anyone within earshot and this with a concussive bang. He sits still. The wrong man may press him on a certain subject with which he is fluent, may try to jostle and arouse him, only for him to yield with a gentle smile. Or the right man may invite him to speak, and, accepting the invitation with a touch of lightness, he may put the thought simply and directly, without needless dress.

Why, however, would he think to speak about what he already knows–since he already knows it–and why would he think to speak with false facility about what he does not know–since he is certain that he does not know it? Unless, of course, he and his companion were open to conversing about which they know not and then in an amiable spirit they might inquire. Yet this quiet form of speech is even rarer than the quietness of the intelligent man in company.