Stillness

The Zohar states that one of the names of God is minuchah – rest. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that God is called minuchah or rest because movement does not apply to Him, because movement is only relevant with regard to something that is in time and space, but God is infinite and not shifted or displaced from place to place. Also, He is not limited or bound by time.

This is similar to the teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi that the real “I” is unlimited, universal, beyond time and space. All action and motion are of the “body” – the true Self is characterized by stillness. The goal of all spiritual practice is to return to that natural state of stillness. He loved to quote Psalm 46:11, “Be still and know that I am God.”

This stillness, however, does not mean dullness or cessation of activity. When he was challenged by a visitor as to what good he was doing for the world by sitting in his ashram, Sri Ramana replied:

“Non-action is unceasing activity. The sage is characterized by eternal and intense activity. His stillness is like the apparent stillness of a fast rotating top (gyroscope). Its very speed cannot be followed by the eye and so it appears to be still. Yet it is rotating. So is the apparent inaction of the sage.” [1]

It is from this place of “vital energized stillness” that God created the manifest universe.

If God is stillness and rest, the Baal Shem Tov asks, why is the world so full of restlessness and non-stop movement? He then goes on to answer his own question:

In the beginning, the Baal Shem explains, God first contemplated His universe and everything in it. Then, He arose from His contemplation, and started the process of manifesting the Divine Thought in physical reality. Despite this concretization of God’s thoughts in physical matter, however, the original Divine Idea remained intact within the Divine Mind – its living spiritual essence hidden in the Supernal Source.

The process of the manifestation of the Divine thought in material form evolved over time. During the first six days of Creation, only a minimal portion of Divine livingness flowed down into the physical creation. This life force was not strong enough to sustain the world. Therefore, after the Creation was completed, a powerful emanation of spiritual energy poured forth anew from the original Divine thoughtform to infuse the Creation with greater spiritual livingness. This outpouring of Divine Grace took place on the Sabbath, and its effects were particularly potent for humanity.

The reason why so much of the world today lacks minuchah or rest, the Baal Shem believes, lies hidden within this spiritual process. The material manner in which we live our lives has cut us off from our Divine source, and this has created the same “unbalanced” situation that existed at the beginning of the Creation. We have lost the basic livingness, vitality and awareness of our interior self. As a result, we always feel empty and incomplete. Therefore, our minds and bodies are never at rest. Instead, we constantly run around in all directions looking for some object or experience that will make us feel whole.[2]

The restlessness, unhappiness and discontent in most people’s lives is not due to the state of this world, rather, it is the fundamental condition of anything that is separated from its spiritual source. As Sri Ramana Maharshi said:

“Consider what happens when a stone is thrown up. It leaves its source and is projected up, tries to come down and is always in motion until it gains its source, where it is at rest.

“So also the waters of the ocean evaporate, form clouds which are moved by winds, condense into water, fall as rain and the waters roll down hill in streams and rivers, until they reach their original source, the ocean, reaching which they are at peace.

“Thus, you see, wherever there is a sense of separateness from the source there is agitation and movement until the sense of separateness is lost. So it is with yourself (to a devotee). Now that you identify yourself with the body, you think that you are separate from the Spirit – the true Self. You must regain your source before the false identity ceases and you are happy.” [3]

The Baal Shem teaches that there is a correlation between minuchah, stillness and unity. On the outside, he says, all of Israel appears to be many. On the inside, however, all of Israel is really One. When does this interior reality manifest itself in the outer world? When the people of Israel cease their separate worldly activities, join together as one heart, and strive to bind themselves to God. In response to this one-pointed aspiration to bind themselves to God, God turns and binds Himself to Israel. And in this “moment of interconnectedness”, all of Israel becomes Still and One.

This is the true minuchah that we receive on the Sabbath, the peace of mind that comes from resting in God. This peace returns us to the peace of the first Sabbath, to the moment when we received the great outpouring of Divine livingness from our true Self.

Or Sri Ramana Maharshi has expressed it:

Perfect peace is of the Self. Pleasure and pain are relative states that are part of the finite reality of our lower self, where progress towards happiness or peace is made by the satisfaction of want. If this “relative progress” is stopped [that is if we give up the constant chasing after the physical desires of our lower self and turn our minds towards God], then we will return to the consciousness of our higher Self and enjoy the perfect peace and happiness that is its natural state.[4]

 

Copyright © 2011, by Yoel Glick



Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Venkataramiah, p. 553
  2. Baal Shem Tov al haTorah, Torah portion Bereshit # 82
  3. Talks with Ramana Mahahrshi, Venkataramiah, p. 364
  4.  Talks with Ramana Mahahrshi, Venkataramiah, p. 32