Sitting In Stillness. Listening To Silence.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” Eckhart Tolle

I have come to the practice of stillness and silence after many decades. I obviously had to come to it on my own terms. And it is fairly obvious that as much as I may have needed it decades ago, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t understand it…..was pretty sure there was no time or place to practice it.

Luckily for me, some things come and knock really loudly and all you can say is “OKAY! Okay, I’ll come.” And you’re never the same.

I will be at Springwater for five days, including Easter. There will be not blog next week because there will be no internet.

For five days I will sit in stillness and listen to silence. Oh yes, there will be walking the trails of 200 acres of hills and forests in the Genesee Valley. There will be the sound of streams and creeks, trees creaking, the wind, the hum of lights and the sound of footsteps, the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the center. But not much else. No computer, internet, cells phones, music, TV.  Certainly there is movement and action, but it is gentle and caresses life. It does not bulldoze through it.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Springwater is a center for meditative inquiry. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of my favorites.

There is a healing that happens to me during the hours and days I spend there. While it may seem like a kind of running away and letting life and the world fall away and seemingly not really matter anymore, it is not that. It is sitting with one’s self and becoming reacquainted with what matters.

path spwater

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks – images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.” Toni Packer

“Things” happen in this kind of space, in this kind of stillness and quiet. Something that is often held behind the closed doors of “too much” of all most everything, finds an opening to tentatively step out into the light to be seen, heard and felt.

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive-it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.” Toni Packer

Through the practice of quiet and stillness I have learned it is not the losing of anything, like the routine of our daily life filled with important “things”, but the gaining of an understanding that gets so lost in the life we lead. There is something to found that exists without the busy, frenetic, kinetic, noisy life.

“There is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalized sense of self. You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”  Eckhart Tolle

I see and experience life and the world differently as I get older.

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world, from the whole earth, the sun or moon or billions of stars, not separate from the entire universe. Listening silently in quiet wonderment, without knowing anything, there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.” Toni Packer

When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

Have a peaceful day. I’ll be back in two weeks.

* Toni Packer was the founder of Springwater.
*Eckhart Tolle is himself
* photo by me of a Springwater trail in the fall

 

 

Oh My Heart

Last weekend my husband and I took a walk in a little nature preserve not far from our home. The snow had mostly melted. The icy spots were mostly gone. This meant we could take a little path down to the edge of a creek. There was a patch that was sun lit and very pretty. We stood there for a bit looking up and down the creek and feeling like spring was trying very hard to arrive. creek wallohearts (3)

After a few minutes we turned to look around and I burst out laughing in delight.

heart wall

There, tucked under tree roots was a wall of hearts! The gestures of untold numbers of people, over who knows how long, filled my heart up. My spirit lifted, my smile grew, I felt light and wonderful. Hearts. The heart.

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment
which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words.
Their meanings can only be be articulated
by the inaudible language of the heart.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the week progressed I carried in my heart all those other hearts…the stone ones as well as the human ones that created the wall of hearts. All those hearts made me think about things like finding my heart. Listening to my heart. Giving and sharing my heart. Filling my heart and tending to it. Trusting my heart. Opening it. And healing it. Lots of thoughts about the heart and how it represents the home of love.

“Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge,
responsibility, respect and trust.”
bell hooks

There seems to be so much fear and distrust everywhere. There is a sense that caring may lead to disappointment or hurt. Commitment comes with the requirement of time and patience that many feel they don’t have. There is a phenomenon Bill Moyers writes about called “anti-knowledge”.  A stepping away from facts and truth and living in a realm of “genuine ignorance” rather than seeking information, facts, knowledge and understanding. There is a great deal of touting of “doing the right thing” by  a variety of people. Yet they don’t really take responsibility for their own lack of knowledge, and personal responsibility…..like flying a private jet to a world conference on the environment. We can think of many other examples. Respect and trust seem like they are fading and disappearing in public discourse.

Yet, these are some of the most powerful ingredients in love.

As I thought about this during the week I came across a small quote by William Wordsworth. It captured why I write this blog.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

That’s all this is. The breath of my heart whispering to paper. Well, a computer screen and the internet….

This blog has become a journey of love and softness. I feel so strongly there is so much that could be attained if we could let go of hate and fear, religious dogma and focus on helping and loving each other.

This morning the sunrise was piercingly beautiful. I could sense it, feel it before I even opened my eyes. I was eager to open my eyes to visually experience it. There was no worry of the day at hand. No grumbling of things I had to do, things I had to face, troubles and problems that might cloud my day. Just a sunrise. That is what I wish we could all do…just see the beauty that is in front of us. To be reminded we have another day to give love so that others my receive love.

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving.”
~Kahlil Gibran

There is a lot of space in our heart. Room for everyone. Including ourselves. There is room for anger and disappointment, hurt and pain to be held until it can be wrapped in loving forgiveness and softened and returned to love.

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.” ~Pema Chodron

There are a great many good and wonderful people and things in the world. There is also a great deal of hate and fear. I check in with myself all the time to understand why fear is popping it’s head up. There is no one we need to hate. There should be no one we need fear. We have to open doors that may be rusted shut, creaky or even locked. To let love in.

“Love opens all doors, no matter how closed they may be, no matter how rusty from lack of use. Your work is to bring unity and harmony, to open all doors which have been closed for a long time. Have patience and tolerance. Open your heart all the time.” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

I teach the preschoolers I work with that in being kind and doing kind, loving things for other we fill ourselves up with love. The happiness and well being of others, ALL others, impacts our own sense of well being.

“The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development
of love and compassion.
The more we care for the happiness of others,
the greater is our own sense of well-being.”
~Tenzin Gyatso

These days we talk a lot about whether there are, and what the distinctions are between others. The poor, the oppressed, the mentally ill, gay, Christian, Muslim. We may talk of them in kindness and tolerance, but the distinctions are what separates us. And therein lies part of the problem. We see ourselves as separate…we distinguish ourselves from others in some way. So we are not them. So they are the “Other”. When we view someone as the “Other” we give ourselves permission to judge rather than love. We need a cessation of distinction.

“When there is true brotherliness, friendliness, when there is love in your heart, then you will not talk of tolerance. Only when you feel superior in your certainty, in your position, in your knowledge, only then do you talk of tolerance. You are tolerant only when there is distinction. With the cessation of distinction, there will be no talk of tolerance. Then you will not talk of brotherhood, for then in your hearts you are brothers.” ~ Krishnamurti

When we are truly brothers and sisters we will care about and love one another and keep each other safe and healthy. We will understand that we all love and are loved. We will want others to have the same blessings we have. We will love with no limits or boundaries. Imagine what is behind the unlocked and opened door of love.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”  ~John Lennon

Have a beautiful Sunday.

 

 

 

The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website Gratefulness.org)

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.