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.

read more 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. 

a research paper
by Bernadette Roberts


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.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Eric Baret - Silence

When you release of the idea of being whatever it is,
when you give in the day to moments where you do absolutely nothing,
without future, without becoming you see the fundamental nature of the devotion, adoration, who Is the essence of the body and psyche, become alive.
You constantly express amazement, you express love in all its forms,
because all forms celebrate the formless.
The love of all sounds, all music celebrates the silence.
It is only in this profound understanding, when you have no become,
that this expression becomes possible.
The fundamental nature of the body and psyche.
It is the celebration.
You offer what you're not in silence.
This silence is splashed in the form of grace in all your structure.


Deng Ming-Dao - Silence

"Seek silence.
Gladden in silence.
Adore silence.

As one progresses on the path, one seeks silence more and more.
It will be a great comfort, a tremendous source of solace and peace.

Once you find deep solitude and calm, there will be a great gladness in your heart.
Here finally is the place where you need neither defense nor offense
-- the place where you can truly be open.
There will be bliss, wonder, the awe of attaining something pure and sacred.

After that, you will feel adoration of silence.
This is the peace that seems to elude so many.
This is the beauty of Tao."

In a cave, all outer sounds are smothered by rock and earth,
but this makes the sounds of one's own heartbeat and breath audible.
In the same way, contemplative stillness turns us away from everyday clamor
but allows us to hear the subtle in our own lives.
When listening not with the ear but with the spirit, one can perceive the subtle sound.
By entering into that sound, we enter into supreme purity.
That is why so many religious traditions pray, sing, or chant as a prelude to silence.
They understand that the repetition and absorption of sound leads to sacredness itself. The deepest sound is silence.
This may seem paradoxical only if we regard silence
as an absence of life and its opposites.
It is both sound and soundlessness,
and it is in this confluence that the power of meditation emerges.

-  Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations

Madhavi Sood - “On My heart penned joyfully”

O! How joyful can my heart be!
And reach out to my destiny.
To see the sunshine in the rain.
And laugh and sing, even in pain.

O! How joyful can my heart be!
To see the wonder of all that is and can be!
To strike out onto a path unknown…
And yet plant seeds of faith and love grown…

Feeling blessed, simply to be alive!
Moving on from day to day with a song and a jive!
O! How joyful can my heart be!
Moving onto my Destiny!

Come what future may.
Fill up my lamp with oil, is all I pray…
So I can sing and dance and laugh.
And reach out to all…
Sprinkling hope and love with my magical staff.

O! How joyful, grateful can my ever hopeful heart be!
Reaching out once again to my Destiny!