The beauty of silence

There is constant noise in the world around us. And then there is constant noise inside us too: the mind which does not stop. If you’re like most people, you’ll notice your mind is making judgements about everything. Before you even realise it, the mind has flown to this place and that, and you’re definitely not in control of where it goes.

Sometimes the noise outside is a comfort. It distracts us from ourselves, and it stops us having to face our own thoughts. Sometimes we contribute to the noise by talking and judging, gossiping without even thinking about what we are saying. At night, everything comes back to us in our solitude and we might find it difficult to truly rest. This is the nature of the adult human mind.

Very young children don’t have the words and ideas to make constant judgements in their minds; they tend to live from moment to moment. They are more at peace with themselves, but they are prey to the outside noise too, and they become restless living in a restless world.

For our own mental health and for that of our communities, it’s important to learn both silence within and silence without. This does not mean stopping communication; it means deepening our ability to communicate so that fewer words and gestures can achieve more expression. There is time to speak and reveal, and also time to be silent and observe without judgement.

Silence is beautiful because it allows us to see things we might have missed. There are patterns in nature which we can observe in silence. Love communicated without words is one of the most powerful expressions of silence.

It’s hard to change habits. The habits of judging, gossiping, getting irritable and complaining have become second nature to a lot of us. But people can change the way their minds work, with repeated practice. Even ten minutes a day observing thoughts as they come, and then letting them go is enough to give you an idea of how your mind works. And then gradually, thoughts will pass more slowly and sitting in silent observation will become more pleasurable.

Who are you, REALLY?

Are you a man, woman, black, white, accountant, lawyer, wife, etc. etc.?

No. You are not any of those things, essentially. You’re just playing the part for a period of time.

Are you alone, isolated, separate from everyone else?

No. You affect everyone and everything that comes into contact with you. You affect the energy of this beautiful planet through your thoughts, words and actions.

It’s so hard to see this from our human eyes. Even though we spend each night sleeping, leaving the physical body at times whilst our souls explore the world beyond, we forget all of that and dismiss it in the morning. Some people travel out of body, or have a near-death experience, or they have deep telepathic insights, but we keep ignoring all these messages, dismissing them as hallucination or irrationality. What is more irrational is the way we humans are living on this earth right now. Just eating, sleeping, working, doing things mindlessly without any awareness or care. Is this the reason we came to this earth? To take a few breaths, go through the motions, and then just leave this place?

No. We came here to experience something amazing and something beautiful.

Is your life amazing right now? I don’t mean it in terms of what you do, I mean in terms of how you feel. We came here to feel something incredible, possible only on this Mother Earth. If we do not feel wonderful despite having everything, then we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. This means we have a choice to reconnect with our original vision and purpose: it’s a matter of free will.

The vital energy, the most powerful transforming energy which can change despair into bliss is love. Love is the energy which binds all of creation on the spiritual level. It starts from love for one’s self, goes out to touch the planet as love for every other creature (whatever phase of growth or ignorance a life form may be at, it has the potential to be great), and it becomes the nurturing energy of God which sustains the health of our planet, of Gaia.

If you feel out of touch with the rhythm of nature and the potential goodness of life, its unseen magical power to nurture you, heal you, sustain you, then read some accounts of near death experiences. It will remind you of something familiar seating in your soul. Visit this site.

The view from my window

When I first moved into this apartment, I immediately noticed the view from the living room. Up on the third floor, the apartment overlooks a busy Indian road, bustling with people, cars and auto rickshaws. Looking past the road, one notices a truly lustrous row of trees: coconut trees, neem trees, banana trees. The delightful mixture of colour is a feast for the eyes.

Everyday, I sit facing this view, either having my dinner, talking to my partner, writing, reading, watching TV or listening to music. Sometimes I just sit here, staring into space and daydreaming.

Just today, I was staring out at the trees thinking about things I need to do for work, when it hit me: I have been taking this spectacular view totally for granted. Seeing the same lovely image everyday, its beauty has become something regular. I closed my eyes and reopened them. That same initial wonder I felt when I first saw the trees entered my perception once again.

Now, this is only with a view from my window, but how many other things could I be taking for granted right now? There are so many amazing visions, moments, people, things… We really have to renew our vision every once in a while to appreciate what we have.

Don’t lose the magic

We create reality on so many levels, but how can we know what is actually real? Are our thoughts, perceptions, feelings, intuitions actually real? If we can see something, taste it, smell it, touch it, hear it, does that mean it’s real? What if what we can see or hear cannot be seen or heard by others? Usually we define reality through collective perception, but what if the collective cannot perceive something which we perceive very strongly – are they blind or are we mad? We give validity to collective opinion, but is this correct?

I think that it is necessary to rely on the collective to define everyday reality because the collective is what keeps society going. But I think that this is something we need to do for convenience, not something which defines reality. I don’t believe in reality, or to put it another way, I believe in multiple realities. I believe that reality and illusion are not opposites, they are part of the same system which creates experiences. These experiences are relative and they come from personal perception. For instance, when we are children our parents look very big to us, but once we grow they look much smaller. Our perception changes according to our relative position. Sometimes we take collective reality so much for granted that we STOP QUESTIONING. We think ‘that’s just the way things are’. We lose the magic of being alive. We forget that reality is elusive and personal, not rigid and enforced. We lose our imagination, our freedom.

This is a very sad fact. Sometimes it takes a visionary to remind us of our magical life, to show us that we are capable of creating wonderful dreams and transforming them into everyday ‘reality’. Such visionaries have a versatile mind which can see beyond limited ways of understanding reality. They see beyond relative reality in order to search for something enduring, something ABSOLUTE, something which never changes. And sometimes, they find that absolute reality, and they spread the word about something wonderful which connects us all in a bond of enduring love.  But we take that message and often do not understand how to appreciate the wonder of it. We feel the power of God’s message in the messenger’s words, but we don’t know how to keep it alive in our everyday worlds, so we create a system for that message, we make a religion, we make a doctrine. In trying to solidify the message of God, we make it into something rigid, which is exactly what the messenger was trying to free us from. We create commandments and we say that the messenger gave us these ‘rules’ to follow. We become followers, when the messenger wanted us to be the leaders of our own wondrous reality. And that’s when the magic is lost.

Unconditional love

Unconditional love means to love someone regardless of their actions, words or behaviour. You love them no matter what. Usually we love people based on qualities they display or what they give us. We become strongly attached to people for various reasons and we call that love.

I think that saints (very deeply spiritual people who have come close to God) have the ability to see God in everyone. They can practise universal unconditional love. But for the ordinary human being, unconditional love is also possible. This type of unconditional love is not universally applied because we cannot see that deeply. It is a specific, contextualised love which comes from knowing a person through and through. We develop unconditional love for someone whom we feel very closely connected to.

It’s the way a mother feels towards her child. A couple may reach this place of unconditional love over time. This type of genuine, accepting, forgiving, embracing love is totally contrary to the illusionary romantic love we see in films. That kind of love is more about the ego, or what we want to get from another person. Unconditional love is selfless, but still strong and assertive. It reaches out to the other person. It has courage, stability and faith. Even if someone thinks that they are ‘unworthy’ of love for various things they have done, crimes they may have committed, through the eyes of unconditional love, that person has the ability to redeem themselves.

Taking a step back

Gautama Siddhartha was clearly an extremely intelligent man. But his intelligence came from an observation of very simple things, those very things that we take for granted or dismiss. How much do we recognise the fundamental facts upon which the Buddha based all of his teachings? The Buddha based his teachings on his observation of life, decay and death. He said that all of life is ‘dukkha’, which means restlessness (not really suffering, more fluctuation). He said that by being awake to this fact, a person can still their mind, detach from fluctuations, and reach a state of total freedom from karma (the state known as nirvana). After this, a person would be liberated from reincarnation (they would achieve moksha). He did not mention the role of God in all this, or how the universe came to be. He very wisely detached himself from metaphysical conjecture, explaining that the truth can only be felt, not logically understood or explained.

I often compare the teachings of great sages in order to find the common thread of meaning running through each of their philosophies. Jesus Christ spoke the scripture of love – ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ and, instead of the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’, learn to ‘turn the other cheek’… In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun to see all things as equal: pleasure, pain, life, death…

What is the common thread? The stories are very different, and the focus keeps shifting. But overall, it seems like they are all saying that we should take a step back from the drama of life and see how everything is actually linked. Everything that appears foreign, contradictory, separate, is all actually made from the same energy, like intricately woven tapestry. Your enemy is not your opposition, he is your brother; pain and pleasure are not separate, they are linked. The only way you can see this, know it and really feel it is if you take a step back. Look at the whole picture. When you are amidst chaos, go up onto the roof of a tall building and look down. You will see an interdependent web of life. Your perspective changes when you zoom out of the drama.

If you are reading this blog, then you are probably already aware of how interdependent we are, but clearly the world at large is not aware of this. Otherwise, we would not sabotage each other’s countries, beliefs, cultures. We get so wrapped up in our own drama that we begin to think only our experience is authentic or valid. But our experience is nothing without the contribution of countless others. How can we detach from ourselves enough to really appreciate the magnanimous beauty of life, of ‘interdependent arising’? We could try doing what Gandhi did… ‘Every night when I go to sleep, I die. And in the morning when I awake, I am reborn.’

Love the little bird on your shoulder

According to Zen Buddhism, there is a little bird on each of our shoulders. It reminds us of the coming of death. It tells us that death is inevitable, and unpredictable. This could be the last day of life as we know it. The purpose of this imaginary companion, the bird on our shoulders, is to make sure we NEVER lose sight of death.

Most people think death equals loss, sorrow, ending. That’s probably why we do our best to ignore the most inevitable fact of our lives: the fact that we will, without a doubt, face physical death sooner or later. But how many of us are living with this awareness? On one level we behave as though we will live forever, putting off the things that matter: love, peace, creativity, joy. We think we have plenty of time to find those things. On the other hand, we chase temporary things like they are running out, such as cars, clothes, shoes, bigger houses. We know that we won’t be able to take those things with us when we have to leave this life, yet those are the things that occupy us. All because we have forgotten about the fact of death. We ignore the elderly, thinking they are of no use, when they are the people who have the most knowledge in our society, because they have seen the most life. Our society is so caught up with temporary success, which is obvious to the eye, that we dismiss eternal success, which exists within and acts as our saving grace in moments of crisis.

So, today I am going to make a vow to myself to remember death whilst being alive. To love fully, show my gratitude and appreciation for the life I have, and to share as much joy as possible in the time I have. I don’t believe that death will be the end – I believe it will be the beginning…of something else. Yet, I will miss the life I have now, and I will miss the people I have loved until the time I see them again, perhaps in a different life. The only thing that will help me let go and detach from this life is if I know that I lived it to the full, and shared with the people around me. I won’t be thinking about the shoes I just bought; I won’t give a damn about those. I’ll see the faces of my dear ones, and I’ll be thankful for the time I had with them, because that time was not misspent.

More than anything else, life is about relationships. Learning from each other and sharing. Community and companionship. As much as I enjoy my time alone – thinking, writing, reading, contemplating – it can never be a substitute for what I experience in the presence of love, friendship, caring, conversation and laughter. Those are the things I want to dedicate myself to before my time comes.

So, why not thank the little bird for another day? Even though I don’t understand exactly how this world works, even though I sometimes find it overwhelming and crazy, I am still glad to be alive. All because of love.