For those of us on the meditation path, stillness is something akin to the "pearl of great price." When you gaze into the eyes of an infant you don't usually see a personality (yet). The infant's aliveness, openness to the world, and general innocence is a natural reflection of their lack of ego-consciousness. Those eyes are windows onto pure consciousness. If you haven't paid much attention before, check it out on the next little one you find! Maybe the adoring parents will let you hold the little tike to drink in its fresh outlook on life.
Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi") described the first six years of a youngster's life as a time when the child may still be halfway in the astral realm. The body is new but untrained and uncoordinated. The child needs to take ownership and control of his new "vehicle." Yet, it seems that the young child is in and out of another world in its early years.
There was a time years ago when talk about "my inner child" was all the rage. The idea was to recapture that innocence and that freshness. In the meditation path, recapturing the awe and reverence for life and life as exhibited in all people, beings, and forms, is an important aspect of the goal of meditation. Innocence is reborn by peeling back the layers of the "self-structure" of ego through mindfulness and, in the yogic (kriya) path, by "cleansing" the chakras and astral spine wherein are lodged habits and labels.
This innocence lies just behind, and therefore, just beyond, our thoughts. It rests beneath our ceaseless preoccupation with our bodies, senses, emotions and ego. Our "monkey mind" keeps us thrashing about on the surface where we cannot see the depthless depths of Self.
But does this transcendental state render us incapable of functioning? Yes, and, well, no! "Yes," while we are deep in a state of inner stillness but "no" when we return and engage in the world around us. Refreshed by contact with our own higher Self and potential, we face the world with the "God's eye" of wisdom.
Popular images of spaced-out saints are only partly valid. The road to perfection is unique to each of us. Stories of saints who don't even notice when they are physically attacked or injured may only be a stage in their journey: a stage that confirms their freedom from identification with the physical form.
But the truth is far deeper and more powerful because the "eyes of innocence" can also be God's eye of wisdom. Why is this?
St. Francis of Assisi stated that "What you are looking for is 'Who is looking."' Albert Einstein, too, put it this way: "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
The image of the darkened stable where Jesus was born is a powerful symbol of the synthesis, the oneness of all aspects of life preexisting in harmony on the subtle plane of inner silence. Joseph represents the male principle to whom wisdom comes through outward circumstances and reasoned conclusions (such as the angel which comes to him to reassure him about his marriage to Mary and later to warn him about Herod, advising Joseph to take the family to Egypt).
Mary represents the female principle. Her wisdom comes from within her, impregnated by Spirit directly. She lives or embodies Christ consciousness and gives birth to it in her life. Joseph lives to serve and protect the intuitive soul-self.
The quiescent animals represent our five senses and base nature now awake and focused on the Christ light of the soul, awaiting its guidance. The shepherds are those actions we must take in daily life to support ourselves. They have taken the time to stop and to worship the Christ light within through regular prayer, worship and meditation. The angels on high are those beings from subtler realms who support our soul aspirations with the vibration of their presence.
The shape of the stable itself resembles the shape of the brain. The stable is darkened as it is quiet and inwardly focused. The return to silence and to stillness is the path to this rebirth. "And they who walked in darkness saw a great light." (Isaiah 9:2)
Finally, the three "wise men from the east" appear bearing the gifts of the ages and sages. They represent the guru coming from the east of the brain, the seat of enlightenment. They bear the three gifts of wisdom (teaching), devotion (teacher), and discipline (technique).
This imagery will surely endure for another two thousand years, more so as our understanding of its deeper significance spreads.
Silence and stillness are symbolized in the infant Christ and in the story of Jesus' birth.
As Swami Kriyananda put it in an affirmation he wrote: "View the world with eyes of calmness and of faith."
A bliss-ed Christmas to you!