Stillness | The Painting Experience Blog

To look within is an act of courage. To be with yourself exactly where you are can be anything from mundane to blissful to almost intolerably uncomfortable. To be present requires letting go of judgment.

In order to truly explore, there needs to be a stillness in which we can begin to let down the barriers we have erected around our own deep listening. Without a receptive mind we see only what we choose to see, and our true experience is not taken seriously.

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will all count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak 
in any language;
let's stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, 
without engines;
we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, 
wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes
and walk about with 
their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping 
our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

More Information

This Pablo Neruda poem is from his 1974 book,  Extravagaria, translated by Alastair Reid.

You may wish to pair this reflection on stillness with Episode 23 of The Painting Experience Podcast, Listening Has Consequences.

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