Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Max Picard - The World of Silence

Silence, however, stands outside the world of profit and utility; it cannot be exploited for profit; you cannot get anything out of it.  It is “unproductive.”  Therefore it is regarded as valueless.  Yet there is more help and healing in silence than in all the “useful things.”  Purposeless, unexploitable silence suddenly appears at the side of the all-too-purposeful, and frightens us by its very purposelessness.  It interferes with the regular flow of the purposeful.  It strengthens the untouchable, it lessens the damage inflicted by exploitation.  It makes things whole again, by taking them back from the world of dissipation into the world of wholeness.  It gives something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.

We need to recover an oasis of silence within the rhyme and reason of our active life, 
for it is in silence that we meet God face to face.


Michael Casey - Leisure As Silence

Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational activities.  It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to all its implications, living it to the full.  This implies a certain looseness in lifestyle that allows heart and mind to drift away from time to time.  Monastic life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a day.  It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and reflection, and expecting the unexpected.  Leisure allows openness to the present.  It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some hazy anticipation of a desirable future.  Leisure means being free from anything that would impede, color, or subvert the perception of reality.  Far from being the headlong pursuit of escapist activities and having fun, authentic leisure is a very serious matter because it is the product of an attentive and listening attitude to life.

Benedict’s monastery is a place of leisure because those who live there are committed to a life of mindfulness.  Being attentive requires, first of all, that we renounce the desire to control what happens around us, to manipulate reality, to impose our will on events or on other people.  We often think that those who try to keep control of everything around them are strong and domineering people, attempting to rule others and to mold them in their own likeness.  Usually this is not so.  Control-freaks are most often fearful people who are threatened by the prospect that events would be allowed to take an independent direction.  Underneath the firm grip and the bluster is a wavering self-confidence that fears to face the unexpected.  By constraining everything to squeeze itself into the hard shell of their expectations, they fail to read and respect the reality of the world around them.  They are heedless of what is outside themselves because they are driven mercilessly by their own insecurity.  Their life is a constant battle to prevent reality from asserting its independence.  Their inner voices are shouting so loudly that they can hear nothing else.

We all need to learn the art of silence, to still the clamor that comes from within as well as securing for ourselves a zone where outward noise is sometimes hushed.  Above all we need to teach ourselves to become somewhat more silent, because it is through an undisciplined tongue that much of our personal and social disturbance comes.  In a world where communication is huge, it takes a fair amount of resolution to create for oneself a sphere of silence, in which external urgencies are put on hold and words are weighed.  Just as it is important for us to make “quality time” for people we love, so we need to reserve some moments – and more than moments – for coming to an understanding of what is happening within us and around us.  We will never have a listening attitude to life unless we spend time listening.  That means we stop talking and we stop engaging in the consciousness-absorbing activities and start paying attention.  If we do this often enough, it may become semi-habitual.

Of course, such periods of silence and solitude have to be purchased at the expense of other activities, and that is what we do not like.  We do not want to give up any of the elements that we have built into our lives, be they ever so trite and paltry.  We have first to be convinced of the value of holy leisure.  This is where a problem arises.  Leisure is content-free; it is good in so far as it is filled with goodness, but it obviously has the capacity to be poisoned by malice. This is why there is, notably in Latin, a certain ambiguity about the term itself and a corresponding ambivalence towards the reality it describes.  Leisure is empty space.  We find it hard to make room for nothing in our crowded lives; like nature we abhor a vacuum.  Better to do something useful, we say, than simply mope.  A period of involuntary inactivity due to unforeseen circumstances we find very hard to endure.

Attentiveness is acquired by most people through a habit of reflectiveness – learning to step back from experience to ponder its meaning.  Most often meaning presents itself to a gently disengaged consciousness – fierce interrogation habitually yields nothing.  As Archimedes discovered, insights often come at the most unlikely moment.  Those who give a high priority to the pursuit of wisdom should, accordingly, try to structure their lives so that times of disengagement are multiplied.  This is not necessarily a matter of scheduling in high-powered periods of concentration; at least this is not Benedict’s way.  In the traditional ordering of the monastic day “intervals” were provided in which nothing much happened.  Provision was made for the possibility of moving from one place or activity to another, for leaving aside a particular occupation and temporarily disengaging from its concerns.  Leisure means living gently; it is the opposite of being driven or obsessed.  It involves getting on with the job at hand and detaching oneself from it when it is time to move on to something else.  To some extent leisure invites us to cultivate the virtue of inefficiency.  We are far more likely to notice the scenery if we dawdle along the way than if we rocket along at mind-numbing speed.  Leisure calls us to avoid the cumulative sense of incompletion that occurs when we find ourselves burdened with the weight of so many cares and unfinished tasks.  It is a childlike concern only for the present.  I suppose it was easier in a world not dominated by calendars and clocks simply to take each day as it comes.  On the other hand, making the effort to overthrow the tyranny of time yields proportionately higher profits to those of us who try it sometimes.  It is like a liberation.  We have to realize, however, that the tyrant is inside us, not outside.

 From Strangers to the City

Monday, November 12, 2018

Chuck Surface - What is it like?

There are many transient experiences,
“States” experienced along The Way,
Which, although coming and going,
Become, in passing, a part of our totality.

Like a sudden rain of Benediction,
Showering Grace upon our wilted spirit,
Such are these transient states,
Refreshing, renewing, inspiring.

Some rue their ephemeral nature,
And in their passing, deem them “gone”,
But their Waters only appear to have dried,
Having sunken more deeply into our Roots.

There are “stations”, as well, along the Way,
Enduring Transmutations of our Being,
No longer coming and going,
Having become inherent in our experience.

Like the Sudden cracking of a green bud,
Revealing pedals formerly hidden,
Never again a seed, never again a bud,
An event in time, as the Timeless Blossoms.

I smile at the implication of finality,
In words like enlightenment and awakening,
For no matter the profundity of one's station,
“Enlightening”, as I see it, is an endless affair.

The mystic poets use the word Love,
To describe the longing that moves us,
And That to which our longing aspires,
For longing is “of” That which is longed for.

And although Love is a word so entwined,
With romantic, embodied connotation,
Even so, when we read the Mystic Poets,
It is our Souls that leap in Recognition.

Recognition, Remembrance, Knowing,
More Intimate than any other,
An Ancient Memory of Something Known,
But somehow, along the Way, forgotten.

A whisper, from the depths of our Soul,
A still, small voice, Reminding us,
Of Existing before all dualities,
In the Ecstasy of
Heaven .

Remembrance, whether transient or enduring,
While birthed in Oneness beyond duality,
Contains, in our manifest experience,
A masala of qualities, an advieh of attributes.

You Feel Loved,
Wholly, Completely, Absolutely,
In a way you could not have conceived,
But… no one is there, Loving you.

You Feel Held,
Not in imagination, but tangibly,
Embraced, enfolded, enveloped,
And yet… no one is there, holding you.

You Feel Richness and Warmth,
Filling your Experience, within and without,
No matter the ever-changing nature,
Of that which appears without, or arises within.

You Feel Fullness and Completion,
In your Deepest Interiority,
Unmoving, Impenetrable, Absolute,
The end of lack, and grasping for “more”.

You no longer feel “your” self,
Though all that defined “you” remains,
Unowned, in a space now Serene and Empty,
But Full, of Exquisite, Vibrant Aliveness.

You feel Bliss, a touch of Union's Ecstasy,
Shining without center or periphery,
That when Rested into, carries you away,
Into the Ecstasy of Dissolution.

Radiant, as well, in the Heart of Being,
Is Fathomless Gratitude and Appreciation,
For the Experience of manifest existence,
For the Kingdom of Heaven is Within.

However futile it may seem to reason,
You cannot help but Pray,
For the end of all suffering,
Everywhere, Now, and forever.

You Feel Affection for all that appears,
In the Dream of manifest existence,
A Tender Hearted but Fierce Desire,
For the Happiness, the Rightness, of All That Is.

You Feel yourself in Intimate Relationship,
With this Incomprehensible Mystery,
And are ever in communion and dialog,
In the wordless language of The Heart.

Like Attar, You no longer know anything,
No longer understand anything,
You feel yourself so Deeply in Love,
But with whom, with what, you do not know.

Like Rumi, you no longer know who you are,
The Beloved having woven Herself,
So Intimately into the fabric of your Being,
That you live in Astounded, Lucid, Confusion.

Like Ibn Arabi, yours is the religion of Love,
And wherever you come upon its Sweetness,
In mosque, temple, or church, or tavern,
There is your belief, the faith you hold.

Like Hafez, and “every sane person he knows,”
You have jumped overboard from the ship,
Of binding orthodoxy and shackling dogma,
Into the lifeboat of the Poet, the Lover.

You have become as a Mad Dervish,
Wandering the Wilderness of The Unknown,
Cherishing Experience above ideology,
Dancing, where dancing is

Your Life is a Play of Mystical Delight,
In which the Player upon the stage,
Is ever Enfolded in the Love,
Of The Director's Gaze.

You are a Wave no longer separate,
Dancing upon, and as, the Ocean of Bliss,
In which the tides of life's ecstasies and agonies,
Ebb and flow in the Mystery that You Are.

Do you see why it is called madness?
Do you see why it is called Intoxication?
Do you see why it is called the Beloved?
Do you see why it is called Love?

For this one, at least
That is what it is like.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bob Fergeson - Silence

This Month's Missal takes a look at Silence. Silence has long been said to be a necessary component to any spiritual path, if not the goal itself. Much has been written of the Quiet, from its physical aspects, to using it as a symbol of the Void. Let us take a look at this thing called silence, and see if we may come to a better understanding of it, perhaps even to see it as it is, in ourself.
     Silence can be said to have four aspects, in that it provides the background for the manifestation of four functions of mind. The first is the silence of the physical world, the realm of the body and senses. The next two are the silence of our emotions, within the heart, and the silence of the mind, behind the realm of thought. And finally, that of the spirit, the silence of awareness. As we come to know these aspects, we separate from the mind-function or foreground, and begin to travel within. Each one will be more difficult to accept than the last. We may see we actually fear silence, as it threatens us in our very sense of being, or identification. But as each fear is overcome and a new level reached, we may come to know that the Peace that passeth all understanding is found not in noise, form, emotion, or even in disciplined thought, but in silence.
     The most common aspect of silence is its physical one, being the absence of physical sound. We can easily see the value of this in our seeking. Having a quiet place to meditate and think is a necessity for us when starting out on the path. We can concentrate, remember our goals, and look inside without outer distraction as we begin the ardous task of coming to know ourselves. This silence can be increasingly hard to come by in this day and age, being bombarded with noise in the form of entertainment and distraction as well as from the environment. We have become a society which places value on constant noise, making us afraid of the quiet, perhaps without even knowing why. Though this lack of environmental silence is prevalent, it is relatively easily dealt with compared with the mental and emotional aspects. To find a quiet place may take time and energy, but it does not require much in the way of facing ourselves, within. While the silence of the outer world maybe threatening to some, it holds no place compared to the threat of the silence within.

"All miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." - Pascal

    Emotional silence is found by bringing our feelings into consciousness. The unconscious emotional turmoil many of us experience leaves us no peace inside, and no ability to use our feelings as a true guide. Being unquestioned, they take on a life of their own, to which we say 'I', and never gain any resolution of them in the moment. These feelings may drive us relentlessly in circles, never allowing us peace, clarity, or the ability to hold to a steady purpose. To find the goal or aim of our very life, the thing we came here for, is impossible without some level of silence within our heart. We may be desperately searching for something we have never defined, driven by anxieties of which we are mostly unconscious, and which serve no real need other than to tap our energy. Working our way back to a silent heart is a wondrous thing, indeed. There we may find a goal we can live and die with.

"A quiet mind cureth all." - Robert Burton

    Many are the systems and methods designed to quieten the mind, to reach an inner silence. Why is this? We are told that a quiet mind is paramount in achieving liberation, but just how is this defined? Is it an absence of thought, or the absence of identification with thought? We may find that after training ourselves to 'not think', that we have merely become good at holding the thought of 'not thinking'. This forced 'silence' is not going to take us to the truth of ourselves. If we can find instead the true background silence behind the mind, then the thoughts may flow on without our being identified with them, enabling us to get a good look at them as they pass by.  Thus we have become a silent observer of thought and mind, and taken a step farther within.
     By witnessing our thoughts, rather than trying to control them, we begin to notice the endless internal dialogue running in our heads. Tricked into taking sides in this dialogue, we fight ourselves, pitting one thought-pattern against another, trapped in confusion. We may see that the next step into silence is found by simply listening, while paying careful attention. This may be terrifying to some, for it can threaten us at the level of our individuality, the ego itself, for now the voices of intuition and conscience may arise unhindered.

"The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts." 
- Vicki Woodyard

   We can see that by listening within, in the background of our mind, new information is available to us that was being drowned out by the internal dialogue, our 'knowing', and the constant emotional dissonance. By allowing our innate intelligence, reason, and intuition to solve the problems of the mind as they surface, rather than fostering interference through unquestioned desires and fears running counter to our aim, we no longer force the mind to fight itself, leaving it relatively quiet and efficient. And perhaps suprisingly, we find we are no longer identified with it, and find again another silence, a silence of the spirit which contains the mind, rather than being contained by it.

"What is spiritual silence? It is not just the absence of talk. Silence has substance. It is the presence of something. "- Kathryn Damiano

 Here, beyond the reach of mind and emotions, we see we have become a silence, one that is aware. This is what Douglas Harding would call aware capacity. We have become the space in which all may happen. Just like the silence of the physical universe is the background and foundation of all noise, as the silence behind the notes allows the music to come into being, we have become that which gives existence to form and thought. As this aware silence, we may turn our attention around, and as we look within through the Mystery of the Unknown, we may find our Source, the Silent Spring from which all is born.
   This journey from noise and confusion to Silent Being is not in any way an easy one, and not one which will be carried to the end by those that desire only ease and bodily peace. If you think you will breeze through the Gates of Silence with no trouble, then test yourself by spending a good length of time alone, in the dead quiet. Listen to your thought, and feel your heart.  What do you hear and see, truly? If there is fear and ambition, desire and anxiety, your journey into Silence has just begun.

There is a silence within; a silence that descends from without; a silence that stills existence; and a silence that engulfs the entire universe. There is a silence of the self and its faculties of will, thought, memory, emotions. There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self and the silence of God.    - Bernadette Roberts


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bernadette Roberts - The Experience of No-Self


This work on nondual realization is a detailed report on growth beyond
what may be called the final duality, or what Roberts calls the first of
two distinct and separate movements in Christian contemplative

The first contemplative movement is described as union of the self with
God, where God is the "still-point and axis" of being. In the first
movement, self is not yet lost, but functions as a higher self in its
union with God. The sense of personal selfhood remains. Abiding in God
remains. Being centered in God remains. The divine life remains. God and
self remain.

But in the second contemplative movement, self and God fall away, and
"that" remains. Union with God gives way to God beyond union. The mind
becomes fixed in the permanent now. The self's union with God transcends

"Here now," Roberts says, "begins the journey beyond union, beyond self
and God, a journey into the silent an still regions of the unknown."

So begins the outline of a detailed and revealing journey whose insights
are fresh and capable of nudging a person toward a further
understanding. It is also without reference to Eastern traditions and
vocabulary, which makes it interesting and different.


Roberts describes a quality of silence she had known on occasions, which
was so total as to evoke fear, annihilation, point of no return. Always
she would return to her usual self, warding off the fear through willful
thoughts of God, thus breaking the silence.

One day, however, that silence could not be broken, for the fear did not
come. And so there was no reason to return to the relationship between
self and God.

Roberts simply remained in that great silence.

For 8 days the silence rendered her almost unable to function. There
were moments of exhaustion and near black-out. Every chore had to be
done with great attention to every detail.

By the 9th day, Boberts was able to function as usual, but she noticed a
part of her mind had closed down. She had become emptied of the past and
come to live in the present moment.

Trying to understand that silence, Roberts first perceived it to be a
kind of absorption into God. Then, after a month, she revised her
peception to be one of "seeing", a kind of opening-up, not a closing

She soon discarded that perception and decided to research the works of
John of the Cross. There she found nothing describing her experience.

Coming home that day from the library, Roberts turned her gaze inward
and saw there was no longer a center, no longer a self. There was
emptiness. She felt great joy and lightness with this knowledge. She
decided that this emptiness and joy was Christ. She could live forever
with that. However, further annihilation was in the cards.

download PDF HERE

Also an interview with the author:
Bernadette Roberts is the author of two extraordinary books on the Christian contemplative journey, The Experience of No-Self (Shambhaia, 1982) and The Path to No-Self (Shambhala, 1985). A cloistered nun for nine years, Roberts reports that she returned to the world after experiencing the “unitive state,” the state of oneness with God, in order to share what she had learned and to take on the problems and experiences of others. 

further downloads:


Monday, November 5, 2018

Jeff Foster - Listening from Silence

Be present. Be here.
Feel your feet on the ground,
your belly rising and falling.
Be open and receptive
to the life all around you.
The sounds, smells, tastes.
Feelings rising unexpectedly.
A tingling in the belly.
A contraction in the throat.
Heaviness in the head.
An old sadness coming to visit.
Stay curious as the moment dances.

Listen. Listen with your entire body.
Hear yourself. Hear the other person.
Hear the silence in between the sentences.
Let the silence linger a little while longer.
There's no rush. There's no 'better' moment to get to.
Silence doesn't always need to be filled.
Be a little more naked. A little slower.
Know a little less what you're about to say.
Be a little less prepared, a little messier,
a little more willing to expose your vulnerable heart.
Be surprised at your own responses.
Don't numb yourself with the same old stories.
Stumble if you need to. It's okay. You are held.
Let your words emerge from silence and return to them.

Friend, in silence we truly meet.
Genuine understanding is beyond mind.
Love is wordless; needs no more words.
Listen to the silence; it is volcanic.