Here you’ll find musings on the necessity of solitude, re-thinking perspectives, new paradigms for relationship and intimacy, living creatively, guidance for hard times, questions about what’s essential and some of my own poetry. May you pause long enough to listen and so recognize your own heart-wisdom and beauty in these reflections. Enjoy!
Image: Marc Chagall
Sanctuaries of Silence, 7:19:
Sanctuaries of Silence, an award-winning documentary, is an “immersive listening journey into one of the quietest places in North America,” the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. Acoustic geologist Gordon Hempton refers to silence as the absence of noise from modern life. This silence, he says, “…isn’t the absence of something but the presence of everything.” And such silence is becoming extinct.
True listening to the natural acoustics of place means “taking things in with equal value.” No judgement, expectation or bias. Something happens when we take things in this way – like the slight creaking of a tree, the quiet trickle of a stream, bird calls from within foliage of rustling leaves. Have you experienced the wonders of silence? I have, and what I feel is an intimacy with the land, receptivity to sounds I’ve take for granted. Including the sound of my very own heartbeat.
Which takes me to how Hempton’s observations of silence can extend to the inward journey. Silence, one of the most essential thresholds of life, reveals Presence. Listening without any goal or bias is rare, yet it is from silence which true words arise and return. In the relaxation of effort to do or make something, to be someone, self-consciousness drops away. Or as Hempton says, “When I listen I have to become quiet….and ‘I’ disappear.” This disappearance, ironically, gives birth to true love. Self-consciousness and love have an in inverse relationship: more of one means less of the other.
Listening to natural acoustics or to the inner depths have equal power to usher us to that imperturbable placeless place, where peaceful abidance is possible. “Silence is the presence of time, undisturbed.” There is nothing more effortless, real or luminous.
Are you listening?
On April 20th, a friend and I helped put our beloved friend, Roxy, to rest. Five years of joy, a few months of decline. Not too bad.
Roxy was a good girl, a goofball, a gentle 75 pound being. So many people responded with compassion, adding they were sorry for my loss. I bless them all for their warmth and care. In the days since, I’ve sincerely asked myself: Did I lose something, and if so, what? Certainly, I’m adjusting to the fact that Roxy no longer appears to me. I miss the way we’d gaze into one another’s eyes. And she isn’t on her lead, walking beside me. I don’t hear the sound of her foxy tail thumping when I enter the room. I cried off and on for three days. Had to put cucumbers on my eyeballs, they were so swollen. Sometimes Love shows up in wet form.
But I cannot say I’ve lost anything. Strange? Maybe. What I experience around her “disappearance” is a depth of gratitude that’s palpable this very instant. It struck me that wanting more time with her means overlooking the abundant gifts we offered one another. There is no “more” to be gotten. It’s already given. I may miss the physicality of her, though the gratitude predominates.
Once again, I see that Love is more precious than the body, which I honor. Though what appears cannot remain; it’s the natural law. Love, however, remains. It does not reside in the body. See for yourself: bring to mind a beloved whose body is no longer present. Do you still feel the love you shared? Are the gifts you gave one another gone? Love has not disappeared; the body, yes, but not the Love. There is no true parting; a transition, for sure, but separation is illusory. I think of Roxy and my entire being fills with the presence of Love, with or without her physical presence. It’s the same Love. That’s what matters. I can’t ask for more.
Go deeply enough into it and you’ll find that all grief, at it’s core, is Love. I talked about Roxy once at a retreat with Rupert Spira when something about her came up for me. He asked: Do you love Roxy? I said: Yes, I do, deeply. Then he asked: Can you let that same love bathe the pain you feel now? The answer then, as now, is a resounding yes. I bow to this teaching, the re-orientation it initiated and the way it continues to unfold. May it be so for us all.
During this dying process, I texted a friend, who wrote back about Roxy’s passage through the “bug gateway.” She meant “big gateway.” A poem that honors these words and my dear friend came of the exchange:
I like bug gateway
better than big gateway.
I can see it clearly:
hoards of soft-bodied insects
practically fall over themselves,
while antennae, those sensitive
sensory wands, vibrate in
Suddenly, she arrives!
In unison, they buzz, click,
whir and strum, surround her
in insect-love. As she floats
through the shimmery gate,
their wings oscillate, washing her clean,
and their song, too sweet for us to hear,
envelopes her in joy.
Her spirit-body wags.
She bounds into an open field, leaves
scent of orange blossoms
in her wake.
That night, a dream:
I sip an ocean of nectar
from my cupped palms.
When I wake, teary love
Thank you, Roxy, for being my beloved friend. For bringing so much joy to my life. So much Love. oxxo
This cartoon requires no commentary, right? I get it, you get it. Such simple images, with or even without the title, are so clear, no treatise is required. Still, there is something I want to say: exquisite attention by the funny looking man is implied in the drawing. To what extent do you meet life with this quality of attentive presence and openness? What if everything is your spiritual leader? When you live this message, you engender tremendous reverence, wonder and breathing respect for all life. And you are a gift to us.
An idea: Behold an object as if it’s brand new to you. Whatever it is, you’ll need complete sincerity or you’ll miss your chance. You’re engaging in an encounter, a reciprocal relationship, whether it’s with a rock or a piece of moss or a dog or a child, ok? So, with reverence, say:
“I’m happy to meet you. You have something to important so say. I, your humble student, honor you. Would you please teach me? I promise to listen.”
Then do it. L.I.S.T.E.N. Don’t hurry. Wait with receptivity and patience. Something may come in words, images, sensations…or silence. When you receive the teaching, offer thanks for what you’ve been given. Open yourself this way. Life is never stingy. It loves to rush forth and shower you with wisdom, humor and generosity. Let it.
Another idea: Create your own cartoon or collage called: “a man or woman meets twelve great spiritual leaders.” See what happens. Feel free to share your creation with me. I’d love to hear from you!
Image: Michael Leunig
Copyrighted material; for educational/therapeutic purposes only.