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A tiny stone talks about stillness

Every once in a while, a story pops out of nowhere. This is just that kind of story.

In the beginning of time, before there were houses or people or pancakes, there was a small stone that lived at the bottom of a creek bed. This stone had no language or thought, but it did have awareness. Its awareness was like that of the awareness of an oyster: a certain kind of attention, not unlike instinct but perhaps not exactly like instinct. But you get the idea.

This awareness would have the rock do nothing but sit, for that was its truest nature, just as a tree’s nature is to grow and shed branches or leaves from time to time.

Well, our rock at the bottom of the creek sat and sat for a very long time. At times storms came and churned up the water, knocking off some of its edges. At other times, the creek froze and on one of these occasions, the stone cracked in half. In fact, throughout its lifespan, it cracked many, many times in circumstances like these.

It was not a bad existence, though the rock would not say it was good, because its awareness did not judge anything as good or bad. Everything just was.

Well, one day, well into the earth’s known history, a child was playing at the edge of a creek and spied the most beautiful little stone. It had been polished by time and glistened in the sunlight that struck the water.

The girl crouched down to pick up the stone and rubbed it into the palm of her hand. It was cool to the touch, and she thought something about it made her think of chocolate candy.

She put the stone in her pocket and continued on her journey along the creek. It was spring and the small tufts of ferns were just beginning to break free of their winter slumber and push up through the earth. It was Saturday. Her mother was baking bread in the kitchen and she was free to roam the back yard and explore the edges of the creek.

The stone felt heavy in her pocket. She fingered it, wondering if she would put it on her dresser, where she put her most favorite finds: the jawbone of a mouse, a pheasant feather, an acorn.

The stone did not have an opinion. Its nature was to be still, and its awareness was also unmoving. Yet it was also aware that there had been a change. It did not try to qualify the change but simply noticed that something was different than it was before.

When the girl got home, she dug out the stone from her pocket and placed it next to the jawbone. She decided its name was to be kept secret, even to herself. Some of her most favorite of finds she did not name, feeling instead that they had names of their own already–they just couldn’t tell her.

The stone collected some dust over time, which was different than knocking against other rocks or freezing and cracking. Every once in a while the girl picked it up and felt its smoothness pressed against her palm, and then set it back.

The stone’s name was Stillness Before Time, and was one of the stones to have lasted through the weather of an entire planetary history. As such, it did not feel privileged,as this was not its nature. It simply continued its awareness of stillness, the kind of stillness that has nothing to do with whether you are moving or not but is a stillness that is felt within.

Stillness Before Time watched over the girl with its awareness, beckoning her–when she got too caught up with her friends and school work –to come over and pick up the stone. In this way, Stillness Before Time made friends with the girl, who never sat still for one second it seemed, yet remembered, when she was holding this tiny stone in her hand, something unnameable within her. It was not instinct or knowledge, really, though something like that. It was more like awareness, untouched by time or space. A simple awareness of things as they are, without classification or judgement. An awareness of things in their own way of being.

When the girl became a woman, and became caught up in the one thing or another that called her attention, this stone would also call to her. And then, in the quiet of the evening, Stillness Before Time would sit on the palm of her hand and remind her of who she was, as she was. Stillness Before Time would remind her of other things–the people and circumstances in her life right now–and she could feel these things and these people just as they are, in their own way of being.

And in this awareness, her heart would open, and she could feel, even if for the slightest moment, how it was to exist outside of time and space. How it was to be still, and to know. How it was to be cracked and broken over time, and yet remain, somehow, eternal.