Finding the Quiet is a book about life. It's not about hiding off on a mountaintop and being a hermit, although of course you can choose to do that, too, if you wish. It's about how to take small steps - just thirteen minutes a day - which will have a wonderful impact on your whole life. It takes you step by step through how to build that routine into your schedule, how to help it sustain, and what to expect in terms of results.
I love Paul's personal stories which help to illustrate his own path. He grew up in the quiet serenity of the Outback. There it was easy for him to sit, breathe in, and realize that behind the low, ambient noise was a natural stillness. There was peace and clarity. It's when he then visited other far noisier places, like massive city-complexes in India, that he realized how challenging it was for most people to make this same observation. There was simply far too much noise for them to sense that underlying stillness. So he set out to help.
An important lesson that he regularly repeats is that you don't need to "mystically seek out" the stillness or "work to a high level" to reach the stillness. It's always there. It is just that the noise around you distracts you from experiencing it. If anything, what you are doing is training your mind to ignore the noise so you can sense that stillness that always exists.
Meditation is a well-established, well-proven method for doing this.
Paul covers three different main styles. One, focus deep on one thing. This would be "candle meditation" or similar practices. Second, focus directed on a single thought pattern. This would be meditating on a mantra or prayer or other concept. And finally, open your awareness to encompass everything. Each has a different style and audience. All, in the end, are training you to have your mind focus and ignore noise.
Studies show that when a person has thoughts, minute electrical signals go to the vocal chords. Thoughts do actually translate into physical reactions. Someone who is thinking negative thoughts over and over is actually saying them over and over - which increases stress levels and the 'power' they have. But a person can't consciously stop thinking. So the way to achieve a change is a 'roundabout' way - to distract the mind by deliberately thinking of something else. The more one practices this focus-on-what-I-want-to-focus-on, the easier it is to leave behind unwanted thoughts.
The brain is a fascinating organ. With most brain-related activities, the more one uses that area of the brain, the larger it grows. So a person who plays the piano daily sees an increase in that area of the brain. Meditation specifically impacts the anterior amygdala, behind the brow. This handles creativity, intelligence, and positive emotions. So meditating daily increases a person's functioning in those areas.
Even with so many well-studied reasons to meditate, a portion of people still can't find the thirteen minutes to begin. Paul reminds us to think, each moment, that "this is the most important moment of my life." Indeed, the past is gone. That cannot be changed. The future doesn't exist yet. All we can experience or control is right now. This is the moment that matters. Thirteen minutes can matter immensely.
And while thirteen minutes is certainly a wonderful length to aim for each day, Paul reminds us not to restrict ourselves as we progress. Most meditators will crave more over the coming weeks and months because it is just so restful and relaxing to meditate. It innately feels good. Paul points out that, once one moves past twenty minutes, they can experience the "runner's high" that many meditators enjoy immensely. So if one has been meditating for a while and has never gone that long in one sitting, it's well worth experimenting with.
Finding the Quiet is broken up into Book A, which has most of this beginner's information, and then a shorter Book B, which has more advanced explorations of consciousness and the nature of the mind. That's part of why this book is great to re-read and re-read. Sure, the refreshers on the basics are wonderful, but the greater explorations can be quite rewarding to consider. Again, he talks about how the underlying stillness is always there. It doesn't have to be reached with intellectual study. It's there right now. He gives a great example. On a guitar amplifier, there's a volume knob. Say it goes from 1 to 10. You might think of that as turning up the volume. But actually, the amplifier can always create sound at level 10. That's the way it's built. What you are doing by turning the knob is impeding that signal. You are reducing what comes out of the speaker. If that knob wasn't there the sound would come out full force at 10.
So, in the same way, consciousness or the underlying quiet is always there. It's there right now. It's full force. The reason many people can't sense it is all the noise that is distracting them. The noise is getting in the way. Once people learn to ignore the noise, voila, they can see that quiet / consciousness that was always there.
I love this other example he gives. Meditate on your body. Its skin, its bones, its veins and arteries. Its eyes and ears. Now go closer in. Think about the cells. Then the molecules in the cells. Science tells us that molecules involve huge amounts of empty space. There are tiny electrons and neurons surrounded by vast amounts of space. Think of that space as a warm glow. Your body is primarily empty space with a warm glow. That's it. Your eyes that you observe with are a warm glow. Your body you are observing is a warm glow. Everything is a warm glow.
The entire book is like that. Full of powerful examples, practical advice, and great information that you can return to again and again.
I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher.
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