November 2011 (Vol. XXIV, No. 10)
Warm greetings, dear friends! As the year draws to a close, the world around us seems to slow down, reflecting a drawing inward, a time of rest to rebuild reserves of strength, food for another active season of growing and producing. The earth lies fallow, while deep within, that which is necessary for life and growth replenishes itself. We would do well to observe and take in this valuable lesson from nature. We, too, need time to lie fallow, time to just be, to listen and dream and wait for the wisdom at the center of our being to make itself known to us before we enter again into a busy season of doing. In the silence we come home to ourselves, we remember who we are; in the silence we are renewed and strengthened for the seasons of our lives.
|November 2011 (Vol. XXIV, No. 10)||606.31 KB|
Silence as a spiritual practice is much more than being able to sit still without talking for thirty minutes or longer. Instead, silence is a quality of presence. The silence we search for is an overall state of being. It is not something we achieve with great effort, either, but something we uncover that is inside us. Somewhere at our core there is a reservoir of silence. . . . To return regularly to this depth, whether in cloistered silence or in line at the grocery, is called "a habit of silence." It is not duration that is important, but the returning time after time to the source within us that, in time, shapes who we are.
Silence is one of the major thresholds in the world. . . . Meister Eckhart said that there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence. Silence is a great friend of the soul; it unveils the riches of solitude. It is very difficult to reach that quality of inner silence. You must make a space for it so that it may begin to work for you. In a certain sense, you do not need the whole armory and vocabulary of therapies, psychologies, or spiritual programs. If you have a trust in and an expectation of your own solitude, everything that you need to know will be revealed to you. These are some wonderful lines from the French poet Rene Char: "Intensity is silent, its image is not. I love everything that dazzles me and then accentuates the darkness within me." Here is an image of silence as the force that discloses hidden depth. Silence is the sister of the divine.
Silence brings us back to basics, to our senses, to our selves. It locates us. Without that return we can go so far away from our true natures that we end up, quite literally, beside ourselves. We live blindly and act thoughtlessly. We endanger the delicate balance which sustains our lives, our communities, and our planet.
Silence is the matrix from which word is born, the home to which word returns through understanding. Word (in contrast to chatter) does not break the silence.
In a genuine word, silence comes to word. In genuine understanding, word comes home into silence. For those who know only the world of words, silence is mere emptiness. But our silent heart knows the paradox: the emptiness of silence is inexhaustibly rich; all the words in the world are merely a trickle of its fullness.
May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us.
Lindbergh wrote more than fifty years ago, "Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives -- which tend to throw us off balance."
But our spirit has an instinct for silence. Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion. A filling up.
Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self -- the false self -- and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.
Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. . . all events are blessings given to us to learn from.
Coming to the red-brick church, we slip inside to rest, reflect, and lay prayerful hands on our ailing bodies. The sanctuary is empty. We sidle into pews, remove our hats, gloves, coats. Silence. Yank off our shoes. Silence.
Unlike the silence of a library with its absence of noise, of outward distractions, its rules and kindly librarians who shhhh! at you, in the empty church the silence is different. It's all about presence. Presence you can't name for what it truly is, can't see, but you can feel, if you bring your heart across the threshold of the outside world. This church could as easily be a synagogue, mosque, or a temple. There you meet yourself, and that inexpressible mystery that lies beyond you. This presence requires reverence, not obedience. We kneel at the shrine with no donation to make but our prayers -- for things beyond words, prayers of the open heart. This silence is alive, making possible a change. Silence
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