Happy Holidays! Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards All!
“Understand–through the stillness,
Act–out of the stillness,
Conquer–in the stillness.
In order for the eye to perceive color, it must divest itself of all colors.”
–Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, p.127
The meaning of the word holidays comes from the root word holy-days, for they are days in which to remember our inherent wholeness and connectedness, which delivers us essentially into the experience of peace. Karlfried Graf von Durekheim in his book, Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise: The Way of Transformation, reminds us that there is quite a different quality in the peace of inner being and the life which strives to manifest itself through it. This kind of peace can only prevail where nothing further interrupts the movement towards becoming. To achieve such an attitude to life is the aim of all practice and meditation; it could never represent a state of “having arrived”, but is always a process of “being on the way”. Historically, von Durekheim describes the value of practicing tranquility in the following way: “In the Middle Ages, people were well aware of the inexhaustible power that arises simply from sitting still. After that time, knowledge of the purifying power of stillness and its practice was, in the West, largely lost. The tradition of preparing man for the breakthrough of transcendence by means of inner quiet and motionless sitting has been preserved in the East to the present day. Even in cases where practice is apparently directed not to immobility, but towards activity–as in archery, sword fighting, wrestling, painting, flower arrangement–it is always the inner attitude of quiet and not the successful performance of the ways, which is regarded as of fundamental importance.
Once a technique has been mastered, any inadequate performance is mirrored in wrong attitudes. The traditional knowledge of the fact that it is possible for a man to be inwardly cleansed solely through the practice of right posture has kept alive the significance of correct sitting. The inner quiet which arises when the body is motionless and in its best possible form can become the source of transcendental experience. By emptying ourselves of all those matters that normally occupy us, we become receptive to Greater Being.
It should be understood that the transformation which is brought about by means of meditation, is not merely a change in man’s inner life, but a renewal of his whole person. It is a mistake to imagine that enlightenment is no more than an experience which suddenly brings fresh inward understanding, as a brilliant physicist may have a sudden inspiration which throws new light on his work and cause a re-ordering of his whole system of thought. Such an experience leaves the person himself unchanged. True enlightenment has nothing to do with this kind of sudden insight. When it occurs, it has the effect of so fundamentally affecting and shaking the whole person that he himself, as well as his whole physical existence in the world, is completely transformed.”
–adapted by Angeles Arrien, with excerpts from Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise: The Way of Transformation, translated by Ruth Lewinnek and P. L. Travers. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1971). pp. 51-54
- All traditions of the world acknowledge that in silence and in stillness we touch the Mystery from which mystical experience is derived. Give gratitude for the gift of peace that is present in your life internally and externally. Where do you have the experience of peace or oneness in relationships with family, friends and colleagues? Set aside 15 minutes each day during the holidays to practice stillness.
- Reflecting upon how Dag Hammarskjold used the practice of stillness: What are you currently understanding–through the stillness? What actions are you taking from stillness? What are you conquering within yourself through stillness? What are you seeing clearly without any overlay?
- Give gratitude for all the love you are extending and receiving during the holidays.