December Practice: Stillness

Practice | stillness, peace, poetry

December 01, 2016

Red foot bridge in snow

In stillness there is richness—a richness of attention, timelessness, connection, possibility, peace. Carving out moments to quiet the noise of modern llfe or the tensions of this political moment can feel illusive. Yet, it is in just a moment we can disappear into the miracle of the sun peeking through a bank of clouds, or the breath that animates us. Pablo Neruda invites us to “count to twelve and…all keep still.” Regardless of language or difference, he calls us to inhabit “a delicious moment” allowing for the possibility of compassion and connection.

This month, we invite you to read and contemplate Pablo Neruda’s beautiful invitation, “Keeping Quiet.” Read it alone or with others. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on our disease of busyness and consumerism during the “holiday season.” Use it to find some equilibrium in this tumultuous time.

Might moments of stillness be a great gift to ourselves, each other, and our troubled and beautiful world?

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.
The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.
What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.
If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.