Still Point Centre is not just a place, it is a point of healing, a concept, a philosophy, an idea and a purpose.
I have always loved the 'Four Quartets' poems of T.S. Elliot especially the one titled 'Burnt Nortan' where Elliot speaks of The Still Point in a way that best describes how I understand it. I found this very thoughtful interpretation of it from the publication Western Buddhist Review, Volume 3.
Here are a couple excerpts from that article.
THE STILL POINT
At the still point of the turning world.Â Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.Â And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.Â Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.Â Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving.
'The still point of the turning world'.Â This has connotations of a centre, of a stationary hub within a spinning wheel, a point of stillness at the heart of movement.Â The still point is central, poised, balanced, and is also the locus of power.Â Here, 'past and future are gathered', absorbed into the present.Â The second crucial image is 'the dance' with its associations of beauty, control, elegance, power and harmony.Â Dancing, like meditation, needs concentration but also fluidity, a blend of conscious control and a creative flowing and spontaneity.Â 'At the still point, there the dance is' - the dance comes from that stillness.Â Without it the beauty and poise of the dance would be impossible. 'And there is only the dance'.Â There is only the dance - there is only that which the dance signifies - as only this is of value, of importance.Â Only that which comes from this creative and self-aware way of being is of any worth.Â To translate this into Sangharakshita's terminology, only that which comes from the creative mind, imbued with awareness, is of any value.
To understand why the still point, the dance, cannot be 'placed in time' we need to look at the next few lines, that state that the dance is a state of freedom from desire and compulsion.Â Our experience of time is a product of our craving, our desires.Â Time flies - it passes too quickly - when we are enjoying ourselves, when we want to stretch out an experience to last longer than it does.Â On the other hand time drags along too slowly when we are bored, when we want an experience finished quicker than is actually happening.Â Either way our experience of time is conditioned by our desires, either to hold onto an experience or push it away.Â The still point then is timeless in that it has no relation to the future.Â It is in the present moment, with no clinging nor rejecting, with no restless desire to be in another place or another time.Â Dancing at the Still Point can only take place in the here and now.
The passage uses paradox, similar to that in the Buddhist wisdom texts of the PrajÃ±aapaaramitaa.Â The still point is ultimately a state unconstrained by limitations of time and space, so if we try to describe it using the language of time and space, it can only really be talked about negatively, in terms of what it is not.Â So it is 'neither from nor towards', and 'neither flesh nor fleshless', personal or impersonal; none of these dualisms apply.Â As already quoted, the subject matter of the Four Quartets 'required a capacity ... for bringing to expression in language what language doesn't readily lend itself to’.
In this sense the notion of the still point resonates with that of emptiness, ‘suunyutaa, with the 'open dimension of being'.Â Eliot may or may not have had this level of profundity in mind when writing the poem, but that is perhaps unimportant.Â There is as it were a 'vertical alignment' of mindfulness, and the openness and freedom this gives us, and the fluid and open nature of reality itself, the openness that is the true nature (or non-nature) of ourselves and of all things.Â Dancing at the Still Point we dance in Emptiness, 'surrounded / By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving'.
Eliot uses the language of the still point in a more poetic, image-based passage later on, which concludes
After the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.
The reference to the kingfisher's wing and the tight rhythm and assonance of the proceeding section recalls, perhaps deliberately on Eliot's part, a sonnet by Gerald Manley Hopkins, a sonnet that has relevance to the subject at hand.Â
As kingfisher's catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring: like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow strung finds tongue to sing out broad its name:
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells:
Selves - goes itself: myself it speaks and spells:
Crying 'What I do is me: for that I came'.
What Hopkins is saying that has relevance to our consideration of the dance is that everything, poetically speaking, has a 'nature' which it cannot help but express.Â A stone, hitting another as it tumbles in a river, rings; the electric-blue of a kingfisher's wing catches the light like fire. And the self of the poet?Â It 'speaks and spells: / Crying 'what I do is me, for that I came''.Â The poet's raison d'Ãªtre is to communicate, to speak, spell, proclaim himself.Â Likewise we too articulate ourselves, give expression through what we say and do to ourselves, to what is within; we give forth 'that being indoors each one dwells'.
So, another element of dancing at the still point is self-expression, communication.Â With this comes notions of integrity, self-awareness, honesty and truthfulness; seeking the purity and transparency of a stone's ring.
THERE IS MUCH that could be said about the poem as 'music', as a quartet.Â According to Leavis, for whom the musical analogy 'has a marked felicity', it gives Eliot licence to 'defy the criteria we implicitly expect to be observed in... all forms of written English’.Â In a musical piece, as in this poem, there are often various melodies and themes which are repeated in various guises throughout, the sections often being linked more closely to the original themes than to an unfolding progression throughout the work.Â The themes are brought together in the final movement in a harmonious conclusion.Â Eliot does something similar in his concluding passage, weaving together many of the previous themes from the poem;
Â· The ability or otherwise of words to adequately describe spiritual experience.Â There are many passages in the work where Eliot steps out from behind the text, revealing his struggles to articulate his vision.
Â· The co-existence, or the arbitrariness of ends and beginnings
Â· The integration of our history into the present moment, giving it depth and significance
Â· A state of insight that transcends birth and death, or at least annuls the fear of birth and death; an insight that places the mystery of our life in their context
Â· And a recognition that such insight doesn't occur on some mystical plane, but is accessible here and now, as 'hints and guesses'.