There is a Zen story about a teacher who was passing two monks pointing at a flapping flag and arguing. One monk insisted that the flag was moving, the other monk insisted that it was the wind that was moving, and the flag was carried along. The teacher stopped and looked at the two monks, saying “you are both wrong. It is your mind that is moving.” Why was the teacher right?
Perceiving flags and wind, monks, trees, fruit, or anything else is a matter of mind. It is mind that leaps from hearing a newscast to embroidering a chain of meanings, interpretations, emotional reactions, and responses. It is mind that says “hurry, hurry- you have a deadline, an overlong to-do list, a bad hair day.” Seeing mind chatter as the source of movement is the first step toward stillness.
And yet, thousands of times each day, we have an opportunity to connect with a moment of absolute stillness. All that is required is intention and attention. There is a still point in the moment when one breath has departed, before the next breath enters- between the exhale and inhale. Notice that moment. It is absolute and still. Attend to this- the air entering your nostrils, the air exhaled and that sweet suspension, the second of stillness before the stream begins again. Over and over, in an unceasing chain of moments, there is just stillness.