Stillness of Mind


A traditional Zen Koan (a question posed by a Zen master to a student, and to be answered upon reflection from personal experience) says: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

At first the question seems rather odd. How on earth can a single hand make a sound? Could it be the motion of the arm and the wind it creates? Could the sweeping gesture with force create such a sound? But is not the sound of a clap the very result of two opposing forces meeting one another? A myriad answers with dumbfounding complexity seem to defy the logic behind the very question. But without such questions how would the mind evolve out of its usual comfort zone to start viewing life outside the box?

Questions and answers and a thousand perplexities arise from a single question designed to pierce the very mental fabric of the student. The confusing mental imagery of the single hand clapping unleashes a torrent of emotional reactions within the students’ mind. How can a single hand cause a clap? It is an illogical non-sequitur. The following whirlwind of mental activity and emotional responses can only lead to eventual despair, through the failure to grasp the very meaning of the question, or an eventual calm as the student reaches within the mind to find an eventual silence as quiet as the resting seas would find calm after a storm.

The sound of a single hand clapping in my experience can represent loneliness.

Byron once wrote “I stood and stand alone; remembered or forgotten… wrapped in a shroud of thoughts which were not their thoughts.” The feeling of loneliness can either be a despairing moment of total helplessness, or perhaps an incidence of self-absorbed romantic indulgence, or maybe a necessary personal flight to solitude for philosophical repose as in Wordsworth’s ” a violet by a mossy stone, half-hidden from the eye…”

All these moments of deep solitude and quiet contemplation, for whatever reasons, are moments of deep personal experience. The sound of a one-handed clap is a mental teasing designed to provoke emotional reactions in our minds that can test our own levels of resolve and equanimity. Are we able o stand the tests of our own mental flurry or are we so easily to become like flustered bees buzzing around in a bee hive. Do we remain on the majestic crest and admire the view or do we become distraught and fall of the mental precipice. The answers are all in the mind and if we would fail at the very first hurdle by failing to comprehend such a question, then how would we fare in life?

From sky to earth Guatama cast his eyes, from earth to sky, searching for answers, afar, but reachable, perhaps, over the next horizon, somewhere deeper within the very own mind. Some allow their eyes to roam the skies and search for visions, others like the hapless Thales, ponder deeply and then trip up and fall in a ditch with an ignominious ending!

There is a magical healing within a moment of silence; that neither maddening crowds nor pressing social obligations can lend in an hour in need of fulfillment and comfort.

In the financial markets where I worked the constant blitz of information and noise was an environment to be likened to a speeding hurricane where only those who could learn to find silence within would not fall into the darkest abyss of mind-boggling despair. In fact the strongest market traders that I have come to observe, through the daily action of market warfare, were also simultaneously deeply entrenched within their own minds as if to find a solid anchor to hold the mind down from the inundation of sensations. Perhaps that is why former soldiers and others from backgrounds of physical discipline, alone, can find the mental strengths and stamina to go through the riot of emotion that surrounds the daily act of investment.

In the modern world we are faced with pressing questions and our success often depends upon the speed which we can process information and interpret that data. Mental flexibility is a quality of mind far different from changeability. Aimless happy-go-lucky minds, borne aloft with the winds, often do not find their destinations. But the disciplined mind that can hold steadfast like a rock, with a foundation of innermost core beliefs, is able to bend like a tree in the wind and yet remain steadfast.

Within the refuge of perfect stillness you become totally full within the depths of your own emptiness. Self-realization reaches the summit within the silence as a complete calm envelops your being and open the doors of infinite wisdom as a lotus flower blooms on the surface of a silent pond. You are now wholly complete, your journey of self-realization has reached its end only to find that a new journey of self-actualization is about to unfold. Your life is at peace, you utter not a word, you walk amidst men unfazed, From your state of complete nothingness you exude a new confidence and a calm as alluring as the meditative quiet of a silent lake. Mental equanimity is balm for the daily soul.

That which is empty can be filled.

From stillness all acts of creation can begin. Little makes big; from the tiny seed comes the mighty Oak.

Source by Ayeshea Deloren

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