"Self-Observation" by Blaise Pascal
Simple quote. Easy to read. Hard to do.
Here's the quote:
"I have discovered that all human evil comes from this,
man's being unable to sit still in a room."
- Blaise Pascal
This "experiment" comes from taking the above quote seriously.
And wanting to do something about it.
The "experiment" is simple:
Reverse the above.
Flip it around so we can use it against itself, for "good" instead of "evil."
Here's what we mean, specifically:
- Go into a quiet room.
- Sit still.
So, what the heck is this about?
Ads, noise, music, images, folks yammering endlessly on television, etc. Most of the world these days is engineered to do one thing: capture your attention.
The modern world can often feel like an avalanche of distraction. And we're smack in the middle of it, tumbling head over heels.
This exercise is about doing the opposite. Ejecting from the avalanche.
If you've meditated a lot before, then this won't be hugely different.
If you've never meditated or done anything like this much, then your experience might go something like this.
You start feeling bored.
Your mind starts going crazy. You feel antsy. You think of all the stuff you want/need/think you should be doing instead.
The secret trick here is to persist. Sit still. And keep doing it.
If you stay still long enough, then you can notice something interesting happening: you can start watching your mind go crazy.
You don't have to do anything about it.
Just keep being still.
Just observe it.
After you decide to actually stop and get back to life (the avalanche), you might notice that - even on a subtle level - you feel a little lighter. A little more clear. A little more in control.
Sure, when you sit still, you mind might go into instant chaos mode...but you have the ability to just observe it. It's just a bunch of thoughts. You can watch them without getting sucked into them.
And then, if you notice that little bit of clarity, lightness, zing you get from the experience...then you might go back for more, and do it again. Because if you get a little, and that works, then you might well be able to get more where that came from. And you can.
So, this is really simple.
Just a few minutes can be enough. 5, 10, 15 minutes or so if you're really wanting to go for it.
If you're brand new to it, the first few times might feel pretty weird. (It is an experiment after all).
But if you can push through that & keep going...you might discover that it's actually an enlightening, envigorating, sanity-inducing experience.
You might discover that "sitting still" doesn't make your mind get chaotic; it actually reveals and exposes the chaos that's already there.
And that's a pretty big step toward getting from of it.
That's the experiment.
Want to run it?
And...Free Bonus Stuff! No Extra Charge
"You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
- Franz Kafka
and end your problems."
"Nothing in all creation
is so like God as stillness."
- Meister Eckhart
"A talent is formed in stillness;
a character in the world's torrent."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
"To do great work
a man must be very idle
as well as very industrious."
- Samuel Butler
"1. Get enough food to eat, and eat it.
2. Find a place to sleep where it is quiet, and sleep there.
3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise until you arrive at the silence of yourself, and listen to it.
- Richard Brautigan
"The most dangerous thing to do
is to stand still."
- William Burroughs
"Just remain in the center, watching.
And then forget that you are there."
and know that I am God."
- Psalms 46:10
"Stand in awe, and sin not;
commune with your own heart,
and in your chamber,
and be still."
- Psalm 4:4
"At the still point
of the turning world..."
- T. S. Eliot
"A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again.
- Theodore Roethke
"Forever is composed of nows."
- Emily Dickenson
"...All this flow of information washes over us every day.
If you suddenly stop that,
it's very interesting how your own creativity starts to bubble up."
Bill Boryles Jr, screenwriter of the movie "Castaway"
"To a mind that is still,
the whole universe