Stillness isn’t easy. Nobody ever said it was - nobody who practices it anyway. Yet there is a perception in our culture that all the running around we do, the busy-ness, the constant chatter and movement, is what requires effort and work, while things like meditation and mindfulness are “easy.” But what if it is precisely the other way around?
What if it is the sitting in stillness that requires the greatest effort? What if it is resisting - over and over again - the temptations and distractions that are always pulling at us that poses the greatest challenge? What if it is our need to always “do”, to move, to be in constant action, that prevents us from recognizing the truths that are right in front of us, that prevents us from solving the problems we say we are committed to solving - keeping us instead on an endlessly turning merry-go-round of our own frantic pursuit?
Nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than during election season. I suppose I have the advantage of a few lifetimes under my belt to give me some perspective, but every four years I see the same thing. Every four years, like some unfortunate variety of mutant locust, they emerge: The enthusiastic voters. Their memories seemingly wiped clean in their brief hibernations, they are certain that this time - this time, mind you - they’ve found a political candidate who will be the answer to their prayers, who will fix all the things the previous candidates messed up, who will really Change Things.
Never mind that the change promised by the last candidate they so enthused over either never materialized or changed things only for the worse. Never mind that with each passing election, the most measurable changes are in the degree of government power over our lives (always greater) and the degree of freedom over our own (always diminished).
Never mind that each of the problems these enthusiastic voters profess to care about so deeply have at their source, state intervention of some kind: The terrorism bred and fueled by military interventions overseas; The astronomical costs of health care in a system practically defined by licensing and regulation - a government-enforced cartel that predictably restricts supply and raises prices; The violent crime engendered by the disastrous War on Drugs; And the almost-routine economic bubbles and crashes that are preceded by government expansion of the money supply.
Never mind that the voting merry-go-round doesn’t offer any non-statist solutions to these problems. That politicians are always and only called upon to act. To “do something!” This is not only the politicians’ fault. It is endemic to our culture: We respect those who are seen to be “doing something”. We respect action. We do not so much respect sitting quietly and contemplating.
But what if politicians “doing something” is itself the problem?
And what if, by continuing to vote for them, by continuing to believe that the way to solve our problems is through the very mechanism that created them, what if those enthusiastic voters are simply enabling the source of our ills? Simply helping to support the machinery that they ought to be tearing down?
What if some of those enthusiastic voters got down from the incessantly turning merry-go-round? What if they just took a little break to stop and sat in the stillness for a while? What if they resisted the urge to constant motion, to always “do something”? Because sometimes, “doing something” only makes things worse. Sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing.
Krishna Purr is a world-renowned spiritual teacher and speaker. One of his early lives was spent in Tibet as a temple cat, and he is the first non-human to have been awarded the “geshe” degree. He left Tibetan Buddhism in his third lifetime, to study Zen Buddhism in Northeastern Japan - which he prefers to Tibetan Buddhism, he says, because “rocks are hard.” He is best known as spiritual advisor to Urban Yogini. Krishna Purr is currently in his fifth or maybe sixth incarnation.