When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself”
― Lao Tzu
"Be still and know that I am God."
― Proverbs 46:10
Sometimes the magic happens when you are meditating with others. In the silence, the illusion of our fundamental separateness evaporates. The "I" becomes "we" -- and we know it.
I think it's even sweeter when it happens that way.
I remember one of those times distinctly. Sitting here now, it seems like it happened in a different world, a long, long time ago. I guess it was. The year was 6 B.C. You know -- six years Before COVID.
were fifteen of us gathered to Just Sit Still during the Wednesday Evening Mindfulness Circle at
the Recovery Learning Community's Greenfield Center that night. As is our Practice, I rang the bell three times and we sat in silent meditation for twenty minutes.
At a certain point, it happened. It got really quiet. Really, Really -- Quiet!
In the silence, I could feel our Shared Presence.
When I rang the bell to end the meditation and begin the Heart Council, the air was electric. I knew that what I had just experienced wasn't just a subjective personal event occurring within the confines of my own skull. I could see it in
As we went around the Circle to compare notes on what we had each experienced during our meditation, the first person exclaimed, wide-eyed, "you could actually hear the silence!"
"Yes. The Silence was deafening!" a second added. Others nodded.
The magic had occurred. In the silence, what my first Zen teacher called the Soundless Sound had emerged as a shared experience. Whenever that happens, even for a few moments, our Essential Oneness within the embrace of the One Love becomes less theoretical. Reality Asserts Itself. You can feel it in your bones.
I love it when that happens.
The Theory and the Practice
Immersed as we are in a patently materialistic society, a milieu that fosters individualism, greed, speed, fear and frustration, Just Sitting Still can be challenging. We have been conditioned to experience our world through mental and emotional states that manifest a lot of noise, restless motion -- and a deep sense of separation. Bombarded with stimulation and stress, our minds habitually filled with incessant chatter, most of us have spent much of our lives being constantly distracted and disconnected from our True Nature. Disconnected from ourselves, we are disconnected from one another. A direct experience of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls Interbeing, our fundamental interconnection with one another and the entire Web of Life, is rarely encountered on a conscious level. Yet it is always there -- always here, more correctly -- in the embrace of what contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and others have called the Eternal Now.
Be Still and Know
Yet, maintaining the open heart and clear mind that connects us with the deepest dimensions of our being is easier said than done. We have to see through layers of conditioning to engage the world as it is. Meditation is a means to doing just that.
Yet, Just Sitting Still is no mean feat. It takes commitment and effort, courage, and a gentle but unrelenting kindness and patience with oneself and others. We have to be loving in order to experience Love. We have to be One to know One. This takes Practice.
Unfortunately, such Practice is still all too rare in this, the richest and most powerful nation
on earth. Yet, a glance at the evening's news makes it
obvious: it's now or never. The future of this planet depends on more folks realizing that we are not only in this together -- we are this together.
Although the pandemic served to interrupt the rat race scurry of
contemporary living for many, the momentum of centuries of materialism
and the glorification of the ego persists. As we look forward to light at the end of the COVID tunnel, it's obvious: We've got to get our act together as a species. More of us need to join
with others to see through the delusion of egoistic separation and work to create a world based on our fundamental Oneness. If we don't, we may not make it.
With the social isolation still required as we (hopefully) wend our way out of the pandemic, these collective efforts are challenging. The deep bonding that can more readily emerge "in person" as we sit in physical proximity (and exchanging a hug now and then) isn't yet possible. Yet, if the truth be told, True Being exists beyond time and space. The One Love that embraces all that has ever been, is now, and could ever possibly be, is Present even in the "virtual reality" of video conferencing on the web.
In fact, within the darkness of these times, there has been increased access to the Practice as it is presented by numerous teachers and meditation groups worldwide. Even a retiree like me, living well below the poverty line (a story for a different time), has had access to free talks, courses, and meetings -- besides sitting with the Mindfulness Circles and monthly Be Still and Know: Day of Mindful Practice retreats that I facilitate on Zoom. (See webpage for more info on these events which are free and open to all.* )
|Thich Nhat Hanh and thousands Share Silent Presence in 2012
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?
* If you are viewing this post on a phone, you will have to scroll down and select <view web version> two times to view information and log in details for these events)