By Jordan Klemons
When we stop for a moment and look at the state of our existence, on every level that we can see - from the microcosm to the macrocosm - stillness is non-existent. On the smallest, most minute scale, we could say that we are made of atoms and molecules. Modern science says that the particles that make up these atoms and molecules are in constant motion - even that they are constantly vanishing and then reappearing. Zoom out to the biological level. Every cell in our body is constantly moving and performing a function. There are cells that are currently being created and cells that are currently dying. Over the course of roughly seven years, every cell in the body is replaced so that there is nothing in your body today that was there when you were born....unless you haven’t turned seven yet...in which case, props to you for reading about vedAnta before your elementary school graduation! On a normal, day-to-day level, we are constantly moving. Waking up, showering, eating, working, walking, repeating mantras, itching, breathing, blinking, reading the upaniShad-s, cleaning, dreaming....repeat. Zoom out farther and we see that we are on a giant rock hurling through space! It feels like you are sitting still as you read this, doesn’t it? But you are flying through space as you sit and read this. I wonder how many miles I have moved since sitting down to write this. They even say that the universe is expanding which would imply that our entire solar system is flying through space as well!
So where, in all of this madness, is even the potential for stillness? With all the motion that exists on every level of the physical world, how are we able to experience the sensation of stillness?
“The Self is one. Unmoving, it moves swifter than thought. The senses do not overtake it, for always it goes before. Remaining still, it outstrips all that run. Without the Self, there is no life.” This passage from the ISa upanishad offers insight to our questions from the vedAntic wisdom. “The Self” can also be referred to as satchidAnanda - meaning “existence-consciousness-bliss”.
One way to try and speak about consciousness - which cannot be objectified or verbally described, except perhaps with satchidAnanda - is to say that it is the stillness that allows for the movements and actions of day-to-day life to exist. Just like a movie needs the stillness and emptiness of a white screen to be viewed, just like the mirage of an oasis needs the desert sand to sit on, just like the yin and the yang need the unchanging circle to dance within, just like the rushing rapids of the greatest river needs the unmoving and hidden earth beneath it to flow over - so too do the actions of our lives require the stillness of consciousness.
This consciousness, is our true nature. satchidAnanda is the natural state. Our thoughts will never catch up with it, our senses will never perceive it, and our actions will never achieve it, but this is good news! We do not need to go seek this beauty out in the world. It is in our own hearts, where it has always been and where it always will be. Graciously giving us what we call “our lives”, it is sitting in stillness.