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Pathways to Stillness

 Many people spend their lives in a state of unconsciousness suffering from excessive and invasive random thoughts that assail and clutter the mind. Such is the persuasive nature of this clutter that many of us take our thinking to be who we really are. As we grow, we lose sight of who we might really be as we unconsciously absorb and adopt the rituals and dictates of finding our place in conventional society. Our background, education and work shape and mould us into soldiers of the status quo, a wholly man-made construct which obligates all participants to accept its agendas, its behaviours and its truths.


 In many life experiences we find that our instinct rails against so many of society’s falsehoods imposed, nonetheless as they are, as the only way to be. We then find ourselves adopting roles in order to cope and become forever busy keeping up with the pace of life in all its pretence and illusion.

 Pathways to Stillness seeks to identify and peel back these layers of illusion in order to be able to learn who we really are, instead of who we think we are.

 A mix of dialogue, short story and reflective narrative, Pathways to Stillness takes the reader down different routes to stilling the mind-chatter, realising the importance of stopping negative thinking, re-connecting with Nature, shedding unconsciousness for greater awareness, and finding ways to inner peace and calm – stillness.

 The major protagonist, Robert, appears in the role of seeker of stillness, finding his lifelong beliefs, ideas and principles gradually dismantled by Jonathan, a former mentor (Two Strangers One Soul, 2011). The discoveries he experiences – a combination of revisiting past experiences that won’t go away and letting stillness embrace him instead of searching for it - go hand in hand with seeing all too familiar things with new eyes. He becomes aware, on his pathway to stillness, that when he changes the way he looks at things, the things he looks at seem to change.

 Pathways to Stillness is both a novel and step-by-step guide which leads the reader in the removal of unconscious illusion and the search for that elusive inner peace, free of worry, anxiety, guilt and fear. It can be read as a stand-alone book or as the third in a series following on from Leaves in the Stream.


Introduction

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. (Wayne W Dyer)

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Many of us suffer from conscious or unconscious invasion. Most of us suffer from both.

Unconscious invasion occurs when those annoying thoughts come flooding in from who knows where to fill us with the non-stop buzz of random, self-invented claptrap. This comes either from the ‘past’ in terms of accumulated guilt and regret from certain experience, or from the ‘future’ in terms of fears and worries derived from invention of things that have not happened.

Conscious invasion occurs when, to quieten the clutter of unconscious invasion, we put on the TV, pick up a trashy magazine or close out the world in favour of the electronic game or, more recently, the mobile phone which does all of the above. Such media dull the noisy debris of the mind in favour of a sensory experience that does all of our thinking for us and steeps us in a world of pretence and illusion. For many, shopping, DIY, even a slap-up meal can often fall into the category of conscious invasion. They put us in remission for a while taking away the regrets and worries that otherwise invade us and making life marginally more acceptable for a while; but only for a short while. This ‘chosen’ or more conscious invasion may be sufficient for us to drift into the domain of fleeting escapism. I have called this conscious invasion but really it is another form of unconscious invasion, one invasion being chosen to replace another. At least there appears to be a choice of some kind, hence the somewhat imprecise use of the term conscious.

All of these activities are attempts to blot out the experience of calm and peace of the present moment. The difficulty for us all is to be in the present, or rather to know how to be in the present - the here and now - at peace. After all, the past and the future don’t really exist, except as thoughts, and you can change those. In order to avoid the sheer annoyance of unconscious invasion, we usually opt for conscious invasion in the attempt to drown out the chattering mind. Either way, we never seem able to find true calm and peace even for short periods of time. On the other hand, it’s almost as if we are unwilling to be alone with ourselves, frightened as it were of spending time getting to know ourselves, the thought of peace and quiet driving us crazy in case we make a discovery about ourselves.

There are other escape routes usually involving some kind of excess or addiction or both - anything to try and banish the current mind state. It’s almost as if peace and stillness are always beyond our reach. On many occasions, it’s as if the mind is saying that it does not want us to be still or quiet, as if its very purpose is to fill us with noise and baggage, no matter what form they may take. And they can take quite a few forms.

Firstly, there are the layers, mantras and beliefs of others, notably of parents, teachers and friends, which begin to take hold of us and shape our thinking from an early age. These layers and beliefs constitute handed-down ’wisdom’ or ‘truths’ and they begin to form who we become, especially in terms of what the outside world expects of us. The ‘us’ who we become as we adopt the thinking of others is not the ‘us’ we might have otherwise been had not life’s expectations and conformities gradually taken us over. There is a shift from innocence to so-called ‘world-awareness’, much of which appears initially strange but which gradually transforms us. Sometimes episodes of this shift, often called ‘growing-up’, are voluntary and unthinking and sometimes they are characterised by kicking and screaming. But we gradually adopt the prevailing agenda and, more or less, we eventually become what the world expects of us. Even when we resist, we become the resistance, instead of what our own nature may have had in store for us.

We learn, for example, that on certain occasions we shouldn’t ask certain questions even when they are eating us up. We learn that we shouldn’t say certain things to certain people because it might offend them. Initially this is a curious, mysterious discovery of the way the adult world is. It also pulls us away from what we feel inside. The real problem arises when we find that what we have been told does not fit with the way we feel, with what our experience is showing us, or the way we are developing. There is a clash between what we have been told and the way we feel inside.

A generalisation it may be but gradually we adopt the externally bestowed thinking as the way to be because it appears that that is the way things are, or at least, just have to be. We put our own inner, heart-feelings aside. We never forget them but they become deeply suppressed.

As we grow into adulthood, we spend many of our days sleep-walking through tasks that have no need for deep reflection or consciousness; we merely follow the patterns laid down by others. And so we lose or never develop the natural capacity for deep conscious reflection. Although, is that what we do when we dream? Perhaps if we spend our days asleep then when we go to sleep at night we might be finding a different kind of awakeness, a different kind of reality which can seem so vivid? Sometimes we seem so vitally alive in dreams that while we are dreaming we do not doubt the reality of the experience we are dreaming.

Eventually our ‘growth’ becomes a reality battleground between our past regrets and our future fears, between the beliefs, ideas and instructions of others and what we feel or experience inside. This is akin to a ‘cover-up’ – the gradual adoption of imposed illusions which, without help, understanding and discipline, are intensely difficult to avoid. If we are to find out what really is, who we are or who we can really be – there is a fair amount of uncovering, de-cluttering and disillusioning to undertake.

Secondly, as we grow older, some events in our past begin to take on greater significance than others. These events don’t have to be exceptional occasions; they can be quite insignificant at the time. They do not necessarily plague us incessantly, but they don’t leave us in peace either. Events which make us ask: Why did I react like that? Did I do the right thing? Could I have done that differently? What would have happened if I had taken the other choice? Such events seem to have a nagging, hidden depth for us, maybe even a hidden lesson. Will we find a hidden truth about ourselves or only a ‘cover-up’? If we re-visit those events with eyes hopefully more open and a mind perhaps a little more experienced and aware, we may find out. We may discover, uncover or recover an inner truth that resonates. If, as science is now telling us, the world is, to misquote Shakespeare, actually a whole lot more than it appears on the surface, then perhaps we are a whole lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Looking back at past events then, to uncover them in the search for the truth hidden beneath the surface to help still the ever-questioning mind, surely seems worth the effort.

Thirdly, despite the days and, all too often, nights of mind clutter, there are times however fleeting when we do arrive at peace, at a kind of stillness which seems like a golden moment where we wish we could stay forever in its calmness, its bliss or even its emptiness. This stillness is a major gateway to discovering what really is beyond what we usually perceive to be the case and provides a glimpse of how and who we really are. So it also seems worthwhile to look at those special moments, describe as best we can the circumstances of their happening in order to turn something random into something more accessible and regular for the peace they bring; knowing that all the rest is no more than the invention of the mind. We all think our own thoughts, we all see with our own eyes and therefore we all create our own realities – all seven billion of us.

So why stillness?

We are now so far removed from our inner or higher self, moulded and manufactured as we are, by century upon century of absorption into man-made belief systems and materialism. We are so deeply immersed in our daily routine of survival, coping and so-called progress, that we need a wake-up call to be reminded that there is another way which can bring real peace and contentment on a more lasting basis. Stillness is a state of being, where we have our regrets from the past and worries for the future rightly reduced to no more than the passing thoughts that they are, in a perspective which endows us with peace and calm. Stillness is an empowering state where worries, fears, anxieties and mind-chatter no longer bother or distress us because, in stillness, they have no meaning.

Pathways to Stillnessis about peeling back the layers that slowly take us over, about de-cluttering the mind and re-visiting past moments that seem to have a recurrent significance because they create doubts that affect the way we behave. Pathways to Stillness is also about looking closely at some of those special moments which seem to occur when we least expect them and, when they evaporate, we wonder how to get them back.

So, if you are looking for inner peace on a lasting basis, free of mind-invasion and the need to be constantly doing to make the time go by, Pathways to Stillness offers a journey into the state of just being where it’s really not important what the time is.