Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This book is about a very special form of meditation—a rediscovery of an ancient science that provides the answer to the serious problems of our time. Proper understanding of this technique is apparent only after you have submitted yourself to its discipline for a time. How short or how long a time, the author cannot predict. To some, enlightenment comes with sudden intensity. To others it is a gradual unfolding.

What follows is divided into two parts. One part is for conscious reading or listening, in order to bear witness to what you will discover. The other, more vital part is the meditation itself, a process that will raise your conscious self, now dangerously absorbed into its thinking, to the surface of the mind, a place where pure understanding about your problems exists. You simply cannot understand or resolve your problems from the point of being involved with them. Trying to do so causes things to go from bad to worse.

The meditation exercise will also show you how to overcome certain reactions to stress. Through meditation, you will begin to see that all your troubles come from (1) doubting the truth, (2) being ambitious and (3) living out of the emotional upset which results from and perpetuates the first two mistakes. Your failure attempts to deal with symptoms and in compensating for your guilt have only made matters worse.

The meditation will help you realize that any attempt to rationalize or analyze an emotional complex only adds to the severity of the problem. The author is well aware of the controversial nature of these statements and politely requests the reader to withhold judgment until some experience with the meditation is gained.

Most people rebel at “good” advice that opposes their secret ambitions, and they will recoil when you talk about their faults. Alcoholics will rebel when you criticize their drinking, even when you try to help them. We all abhor outer direction (being told what to do), for the natural inclination of the soul is toward ultimate self-government.

For example, fixed on the wall of an elevator there is a sign: “Gentlemen, please remove your hats when ladies are present.” The first man to see it becomes angry; the sign is insinuating that he has no manners, so he rebels by leaving his hat on. A second man enters and becomes self-conscious, noticing that the ladies also see the sign. Reluctantly, he removes his hat.

The first man might have had good manners, but when he saw the sign he rebelled with bad manners (which bothers his conscience). The second man removed his hat only through embarrassment, not because he really wanted to, and so felt thoroughly uncomfortable all the time he was in the elevator.

Notice that both men have reacted badly to the sign. Both men lost control, as well as respect for themselves and the ladies in the elevator. Neither of these men did the right thing, and this outcome was the secret intention of the “do-gooder” who placed the notice. Now, the one who would have been right is wrong, and the unmannered person is the one who appears to be well mannered. Moreover, the meddling problem-solver has not solved the problem, but only made things worse. The frustration caused by his interference creates a greater need for his services and provides him with an inspiring illusion of worthiness. In the process, he has created a full-time job away from looking at his own miserable self.

Counseling places the same barrier between patient and healer. You simply cannot help a person from the outside. Searching people become worse off, and weak characters only seem to get better, while the doctor promotes in himself artificial feelings of value.

The smallest child will rebel against such signs as the one we mentioned above. This rebellion is the cause of many emotional diseases, compulsions, juvenile delinquency and crime. Without the kind of self-government, which is guided by conscience, the more we try to rule ourselves or instruct those we love, the more rebellion we create.

A free nation can remain free only as long as its people find the way to self-discipline. If they fail in this, socially necessary disciplines must be imposed upon them by law. That is precisely why we evolve the need for authorities: to protect us from one another because of what we have become as a result of our failure to live out of the stimulation from the principle within us.

Alas, the more laws and regulations we create, the more we lose the real freedom to live out of ourselves. There evolve so many laws covering so many things that we are left with almost no choice in anything. Thus the law must take away from us the very freedom it was supposed to protect.

Of course we need law and order, but only because we have not found them within. Would you believe that there is an unconscious wish on the part of most authorities to keep you from being lawful, healthy, self-led and motivated? The way law punishes crime does as much to create the criminal as temptation does. And medicine sets a person up to be more sick in making him well.

What we are dealing with, then, is a gigantic psychic conspiracy to make you dependent on being led! Leaders have a terrible need to be needed, and to feed their egos, people must be changed into cripples.

Failure to find the inner way means that we become enslaved to our rationale and our lawless passions, so that eventually they have to be held in check for us by pills and jails. When our feelings are forcibly controlled or manipulated from the outside by the very rules we should have chosen for ourselves from the inside, we live in angry agony. We must learn to lead our own feelings and bodies. We must also discover how to let others find this way for themselves.

The soul of man stands in the middle of two worlds: the material and the spiritual. The one to which we respond controls us. Our path of existence depends on our choice in this matter. By not choosing rightly, or not knowing how, we continue responding to a compulsive external tug on our senses which causes us the agony of rebelling against or conforming to what only appears to be right.

Pavlov demonstrated that dogs would respond increasingly to repeated stimuli with “idea” and feeling, and eventually “idea” alone could produce the reaction. Conditioned reflex may be normal for animals, but it spells agony for mankind, daily robbing him of the will to do right.

In the outwardly motivated person, ideas rise out of reaction to things or people or situations. These ideas grow to create feelings (usually of fear) through the continued “idea-feeling” relationship in much the same manner as Pavlov’s dogs. They were conditioned to salivate at the ring of a bell by having food present. When the food was removed, the idea of food associated with the bell was sufficient to cause the same reaction. Similarly, man has guilt or panic buttons that can be pressed for another’s advantage, because his reason has not been developed as a stronger influence than outside pressures.

Every person who allows the undisciplined emotional reaction to temptation is guilty, afraid and easily controlled by those growing sensitivities. Emotional response motivates behavior patterns as the result of external pressures, creating a vicious cycle of feeling and thinking that bypasses reason. This, then, is the cause of all our suffering. (As a matter of record here, man no longer has any reason, it having been displaced by excuses and rationale to hide the shame of his enslavement to corrupting influences.)

The meditation is the science of starting a similar stimulation from the other side of the psyche. It is a science of diminishing response to temptation, persons or things. By eliminating the response to outer stimulation, we starve the roots of unfounded fears and dissolve the faulty imagination, opening up a whole new world of understanding. Then, and only then, do we begin to see reality.

The secret lies in the meditation exercise, a reverse principle to the hypnosis of life. All of us have within a potential inclination toward right action, such as helping one another. The exercise fosters this tendency to think and do what we perceive is wise for each moment in a naturally compelled manner, without the use of any pressure or suggestion to that end. The emphasis is placed solely upon improvement of the meditation exercise. The directions are designed to lead us to the ability to perceive clearly for ourselves and to have confidence in and act upon what we see to say and do; and so by not doubting, we can overcome the emotionality we feel when we do doubt ourselves.

America is gobbling up “success,” “get rich” and “influence others” books at a tremendous rate. But are material possessions the real object of our search? The novelty of riches soon wears thin, as any child who has had a new toy can tell you. Without real purpose, our hunger and dissatisfaction grow worse than before. For unhappy people, money is a means of self-destruction. They use it to hurt others, or gamble it away on “wine, women and song” in a frantic attempt to ease the pain of externally reactive living. Having lost the joy of meeting each moment calmly, patiently, graciously, confidently, they seek the substitute reward called pleasure.

The writer does not guarantee the seeker wealth, but rather he offers knowledge of the way to contentment, peace of mind, and purpose. The road to riches is not the road to real happiness. The road which leads to correct response in each moment of truth is the first step to everything worthwhile.

If you were to ask ten people this question, “What would you ask for if you were granted only one wish?” the answers would vary. One might say “a new car”, another might say “education,” another “health,” another “money”; ironically, these people would ambitiously and blindly limit their opportunities in life. If we were truly inclined toward Reality, we might choose quite differently. We might say, “If I had one wish, I would wish that every good thing I ever wished for would come true.” Here we would be using this one wish to become a foundation for all other wishes. We all have that choice in life, but we cannot make that wish because it is hidden from us.

When Solomon was asked what single wish he would be granted, he answered: “Give me wisdom that I might judge Thy people properly.” Because of his propensity toward good, his prayer was heard. The Lord was obliged to give Solomon riches, fame, honor, everything, because Solomon had asked for the cause of all good things.

We all know how beneficial wisdom and perhaps positive thinking are for us, but no one as yet has shown us how we may achieve them without kidding ourselves. A sort of pseudo-positive thinking ends when we close an inspiring book, or perhaps it lingers for a while after we listen to a lecture. So we spend more and more time on drinking in good thoughts, which are all too soon washed out by one good emotional upset. Conversely, the truly positive state of mind effortlessly influences conditions, and adversity builds its strength.

The salesman cannot close a sale if he reacts to his customer; the customer must respond to the salesman. If you go through life being influenced by others, you cannot be positive. True positiveness is the effect on life that comes about simply through not being affected by it. This beautiful thing comes to pass by discovering a relationship with our Parent Self. If we let the Presence within affect us more than our environment, we remain calm—less and less affected by stress.

Because we lack this alignment, most of us react negatively to pressure. Because of this compulsion to respond, we spend so much time finding ways to relax and release guilt, worrying about how to overcome life and analyzing everything, that it drains us of the energy we need for successful living. Our tense minds become so clouded we cannot concentrate, and we make so many foolish decisions that we are afraid to face life. A positive state of mind comes about only when we are no longer affected by such confusions.

Doctors agree that many diseases stem from needless reaction to stress. It has been fairly well established that emotion brings about abnormal changes in the body, changes that lead to illness. Tense people may become sick because of reaction, and then worry themselves into more illness.

The smoker, the alcoholic and the compulsive eater all worry about their problem, but the more they think about it the more they feed the problem. The more they try to abandon their habits, the more they are reminded of a growing, unsoothed agony of tension. The harder they try to overcome it, the more strongly it resists their efforts. This is an example of the law of reversed effort, found in all man’s personal problems. What we fight we give power to evolve, so that through our struggle we compound the problem we are fighting, the very problem that we ourselves originated. Nothing can live without its sustaining factor. This is true also of sickness and disease—when we remove the foundation of pride and struggle, our problems wither away.

We stampede headlong into the arms of comfort and complacency to escape the pains of stress, never realizing that these conditions, properly handled, are the sole pathway to health. Ironically, the security, the soft living we pursue (to avoid experience), eventually becomes the cause of further suffering. We must, like Solomon, seek the basic wisdom to cope with our problems, and then we must again face life armed with patience and self-control.

In learning to play the piano, one must have a piano to practice on. If one has learned incorrectly, one cannot overcome the errors of past learning without a piano on which to practice in a new way. It is the same with life. Take the case where one person reacts to trifles while another remains unaffected. Both of these persons have had experience (the equivalent of practice) that has cumulatively affected their total personalities. One has emerged bitter and resentful, the other kind and strong.

As a result of each reaction, it takes less provocation to produce more reaction—eventually we have a conditioned reflex. “A” grows more sour. “B” grows stronger. “A” worries over his feelings. “B” has no guilt feelings to worry about and possesses a mind free to pursue more worthwhile interests. “A” becomes negative through his reactions to stress. The only way “A” can improve is to imitate “B”; but without both the understanding and the living experience, “A” cannot start changing (like the man who cannot relearn the piano without a piano and new instructions).

The situation that causes the problem in “A” is also the identical situation by which he can recover. Suppose “A” is irritated by his mother-in-law—every time he sees her she makes him more nervous. Let us assume that his reaction (resentment) is producing the problem. If we teach him how to overcome his reaction to his mother-in-law, he recovers—and can extend his new-found patience into his relations with other people. Failure to accomplish this can lead to diminishing control, increased tension, resentment and bitterness.

As we lose control of ourselves, it takes less stress to produce more reaction. Eventually, a complete loss of self-control leads to a shock or sickness, which kills us. We must learn to reverse this state of affairs so that it will take more stress to produce less reaction. If we go along in the old way, we lose our ability to face the smaller issues of life, but if we learn the new way of meeting life, we grow more adept as greater challenges arise.

Our Creator has given us an inner conditioning process to override our animal responses under stress. Through meditation we can pattern our responses from the soil of inner reason, for the secret of controlling “things” lies in the proper response to the intuitive self. The dissolving of our animal feelings of need and hate will mark the beginning of our divine love for others.

Inner conflict exists only because we lack proper understanding of this exact science. At present, we are controlled by feeling, and feeling is directed by evil pressures, both those that hypnotize us to be bad and those that try to make us feel good. People and things have made us puppets. Response to environment causes a conflict, which we tend to relieve through pleasure that gives us more pain simply because it is wrong conditioning, a wrong way of solving a problem. The study of this response pattern is the basis of modern psychology, but, alas for this art, it cannot change the man unless it changes the situation—and what kind of man is it who is good only when conditions are?

Why not teach the inner man to remain unmoved by the conditions surrounding him? When we respond to our environment, we take on the nature of the world we live in; when things are nice, we feel nice; when things are unpleasant or we are persecuted, we become cruel or depressed. We conform to avoid pain or to gain safety and approval, slowly giving up inner principle as we capitulate to the cruel world. When we conform, we become like others, forfeiting the privileges of creative individuality; we become addicted to seeking the pleasing effects of conditions, and that sets us up to be more affected by the next negative emotional impact. The pressure-motivated person is in conflict with his true self. The inner-motivated man is happily not bothered by his variance with others.

Here, then, is the age-old practice of meditation brought up-to-date, redefined as an exact science of developing the individual. Let me warn the traveler who is about to enter this dimension: you cannot gain any experience from reading this book. The meditation is basically a technique of subjection to the inner self, which we know as conscience. The understanding gained from entering into it is so profound that you will never find words to explain it to others. The effect of this inner attentiveness will change your perspective on life so radically and rapidly that within a very few days many people will be astonished at your new attitudes and insight.

At this point it should be mentioned that Chapter 1 of this book, “Be Still & Know,” is a more or less verbatim transcription of the author’s recordings of the same name. It is the key exercise in meditation, probably the only one needed by the sincere seeker. It is the author’s belief that most people would prefer to learn the technique of meditation from the recordings in the privacy of their own homes. If that is the case, you may obtain the CDs from The Foundation of Human Understanding, P.O. Box1000, Grants Pass, Oregon 97528.

The special exercise in objectivity introduces into us those true principles from the very source, not from intellectual rote. Many people know their faults, yet cannot change them; life like this is a nightmare of struggle. But when the “dreamer” separates from the nightmare of his thinking, he enters into the dimension of reality. When you are awakened from the nightmare, there is no need to struggle. Life becomes effortless. The birds sing sweeter; the sun shines brighter. Habits will melt like ice in the summer sun; you will see life from an entirely new frame of reference. You will be detached, free, as though you were the director of the play, not the puppet actor. You will experience a strong sense of awareness and control, a feeling that life is just beginning for you, a feeling of being different from the rest of the world—because you are.

If you are a scientific investigator, my advice to you is not to try this at all; your soul cannot bear to be still, for in that stillness you would feel that you were dying. (There is, of course, a “dying to the world” that is welcome to the pure in heart, but it is an anathema to the vain egotist who prides himself on the power of his intellect.)

The truth is that in order to see reality your ego must come out from hiding in its imagination to face it. You must abandon the refuge of your Alice-in-Wonderland world of imagination where you think you are something when you are not. You must look at all the compulsive cunning, analyzing, intrigue, scheming and planning to get what you want out of life which pass for intelligence. This you may not want to do, for when one sees truly in the light of reality, one experiences the shame that takes away pride, and as a proud person, that is something you will want to avoid like the plague. This experience transcends human expression. The soul, once quieted, stripped of its rationale, illicit desires, and compulsive mind-movement, comes face to face with the truth about its pride and weakness.

If you are merely curious, just read this book as long as it holds your interest (it embodies some ideas you have heard before); then put it among the other inspirational books that never did you any real, lasting good but look nice on your bookshelves. If, on the other hand, you long to see reality again, you may find in Chapter 1, “Be Still & Know,” all that you need to know to start on your own journey within.


I am always looking for morally and psychologically sound materials that a chaplain can use to boost a unit’s morale and enhance a soldier’s resilience. Your [meditation] is an effective and practical tool that enhances stress management and builds resilience within the mind and emotion of the warrior.

I am especially thankful for the Be Still and Know exercise. It is a good self awareness exercise, comparable to the concept of mindfulness used within the field of empirically researched psychology. I have integrated the exercise into my own personal life as a Christian Chaplain. It assists me in being effective in what I call a listening prayer. My foundational written statement for listening prayer is found in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God.” The essence of this spiritual discipline calms my soul, improves my emotional regulation, and enhances my critical thinking skills.

I read a small, but powerful book by Charles Swindoll, Intimacy with the Almighty, several years ago. This book helped transform my life as a war veteran chaplain. The book clarified if I am to be resilient in this difficult world, I must practice the four spiritual disciplines of simplicity, silence, solitude, and surrender. The Be Still and Know exercise helped me practice these four disciplines on a consistent basis.

My average day is filled with phone calls, emails, visits, and deadlines. It seems to me the Blackberry and computer tend to escalate distress signals in my brain as I suffer with an overload of information and tasks to be completed each day. Charles Swindoll said it best when he stated, “Everything around us works against reordering and simplifying our lives. Everything! Ours is a complicated and cluttered world.” The Be Still and Know exercise used as a listening prayer decreases the clutter in my mind and helps me be more effective and creative in my thought process.

The practice of silence and solitude is at the very core of the Be Still and Know exercise. Learning to be still is one of the most needed, yet most difficult spiritual disciplines today. I remember my struggle when I first became intentional about practicing being still. It was just like the noted Roman Catholic Priest, Henri Nouwen stated, “Time in solitude may at first seem little more than a time in which we are bombarded by thousands of thoughts and feelings that emerge from hidden areas of our mind. It can feel like a multitude of confusing thoughts are jumping around in the mind like monkeys in a banana tree.” Indeed, this was my experience early on. However, I have observed as I continue the practice of silence and solitude my mind becomes more rested. It also seems my resilience in thinking straight under pressure is improved.

Last of all, there is the issue of surrender. It is an issue of how I want my day to go versus how my day actually does go. A few years ago, while practicing the essence of be still and know, I came to a powerful awareness of what my core daily struggle is. I want my day to go my way. I am finally learning to let go of those things I cannot control or change. I am finally learning that surrendering my days and future to God, not as I would have it, is the most responsible act of obedience I can do. This transformative attitude is a lighter burden for me to carry. It certainly decreases my frustration and distress levels.

I need simplicity, silence, solitude, and surrender in my life to be an effective, resilient military chaplain in today’s complex world. Thank you for introducing me to the Be Still & Know CD. It is a helpful tool that can help many other military personnel become the resilient leaders we all need to be in the rapidly changing environment in which we live.

Chaplain (LTC) Phillip L. Pringle
US Army (Southern Baptist)