OSHO: What moving into silence is like and why we avoid it

OSHOToday’s meditation: Today I practice stillness, moving within and listening to the sounds of life.

I am following a wonderful 21-day audio meditation by OSHO called Meditation for Busy People. I recommend it highly–it is provided by Mentors Channel. This is Day 15, but you can still listen to the last six days for free, and of course, continue to hear the next six.  Sign up here.

In today’s meditation, OSHO explores many themes related to outward silence and inward silence. Today’s meditation was particularly enlightening: it talks about

  • How fear keeps us engaged in busy-ness,
  • The one thing you need to do to learn how to meditate
  • What you will find if you are patient enough to work through the meditative process
  • How listening can be a bridge between the outer world and the inner world

The description of moving inward, and why we avoid it, is very similar to what all mystics and practiced meditators report–it starts out difficult, almost impossible. You resist, you become impatient, and if you accept the challenge you are accepting a confrontation with yourself. And so busy-ness becomes a diversion–an escape–from meeting yourself. If you’ve ever read  St. Teresa describes in the first and second mansions in Interior Castle, you would find that the 16th century Spanish saint and this 20th century Indian guru say exactly the same thing!

There are souls so infirm and so accustomed to busying themselves with outside affairs that nothing can be done for them, and it seems as though they are incapable of entering within themselves at all. St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers

People are busy without business. People say they would like to rest but nobody wants to rest because if you rest really it automatically becomes a meditation, you start falling inwards. You start moving toward your inner center and fear grips. You become afraid.  OSHO

The set-up for the daily meditations are such that OSHO’s meditations are bookended by an introduction and a meditation exercise which is available as a pdf, and which in itself is very helpful. Today’s exercise was in “Listening Cheerfully”:

Even if you are listening to something that you have never thought of as worth listening to, listen to it very cheerfully – as if you are listening to a favorite melody –and suddenly you will see you have transformed the quality of it. It becomes beautiful.
And in that listening your ego will disappear. Whenever the body and the soul are really together, in any act, the ego disappears…and with this “listening, cheerfully” there is no distance left between the body and the soul.
So today, just stop and listen for a couple of minutes. Stand on that bridge between the outside world and the inner one. Listen to the symphony of life.

This morning I wished I had a camera

I wished I had my camera this morning. Spring was aborted in the Northeast by a winter encore performance. This event was very annoying, frankly.

I dragged out my boots and hats and mittens out from the landing spot for the “off-season” bins and left the house with Nessie for our 6:30am walk.

Standing on the bridge crossing the creek I wished I had my camera. It was that time after a snow storm when the sun first reveals the skyfall of snow, but hasn’t had time to dismantle it yet. The tree branches are outlined with white. Sounds are muffled. The grey creek lies still waiting for the ducks. My footprints and Nessie’s are the only disturbances in the snow.

And then I go and wish I had my camera. Yup, I still haven’t learned.

Silence is when you don’t need a camera. You let go of the disappointment that you can’t take the gussied up trees home. You let go of the desire to make what is impermanent permanent. There is no digital copy for this moment in time, and there can’t be. I’m slowly learning that.

I'm not cheating here--I took this picture last week! I needed SOME picture for the blog post, didn't I?

I’m not cheating here–I took this picture last week! I needed SOME picture for the blog post, didn’t I?

Silence is simply deep seeing the simple beauty of the snow; deep listening to it crackling on the branches, deep being, with no desire to shove the moment in my pocket with my camera.

It’s the wanting things to last that breaks the silence.

 

 

 

Silence in the Vertical World

Here is where 99% of us live 99% of the time.

Slide1

This is the horizontal world, according to Rodney Smith in Stepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self. This is a great book, by the way–one of my favorites.

Anyway, signs you are living in this horizontal world are:

  • You think about the past
  • You carry emotions from the past, like regret, pain, or nostalgia
  • You think about the future
  • You carry emotions about the future, like expectations, hopes, and fears
  • You frame your beliefs according to your experiences in the horizontal world
  • These beliefs, or concepts, are the “right” ones, because you’ve rationalized and compartmentalized them
  • To you, the present is simply the chronological spot between the past and future

Here, Rodney Smith says “you go on excursions through time.” Getting to work, checking to-do lists, checking bucket lists, reliving past accomplishments and embarrassments, conversing, spectating, jumping from distraction to distraction.

What else is there?

The vertical universe.

Slide1

The vertical universe is more than a spot on a timeline… it’s like a doorway to timelessness, and that timelessness is huge. It’s the place where we don’t leave the horizontal world–we bring those suitcases with us, but we live fully in that “4th dimension” of space. I can’t really interpret it, but I have found that others do a pretty good job:

Rodney Smith:

The vertical perspective of the here and now is very different. Since the moment is not being squeezed between the rock of the past and the hard place of the future, it is open and expansive. In fact it is infinite and total, encompassing all rings including thoughts about past and future, because all thoughts are occurring here and now. So the vertical universe actually encompasses the horizontal universe. Nothing could possibly escape the moment or ever be outside it, so the vertical universe is always abiding and hover moves. Things move within it, but it never moves. Moment after moment we are taking birth in the vertical universe; the problem is we think we are in the horizontal. Occasionally we pause sufficiently to see the intersection of these dimensions and not merely think our way past them. It may be in a moment of wonder, mystery, beauty, or a moment too precious to deny. –From Stepping Out of Self-Deception, Shambala, 2010: pg. 27

Thich Nhat Hanh  speaks of it:

I have arrived. I am home. My destination is in each step.

The environmentalist Derrick Jensen enters that vertical space, I believe, when he talks to the trees:

 I’ve been stuck in my writing for several days. Each paragraph I write goes nowhere, and then nowhere again. I ask the trees for help and they give me words. Did they enter my mind, or did I enter theirs? I ask my muse for help, and these words come. Who is writing? Am I possessed? Are my fingers writing on their own? Is my mind  writing on its own? –From Dreams, Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2011

Perhaps the vertical universe is inhabited by the Third Eye, that mystical place that goes beyond ordinary perception.

Perhaps it is experienced through what psychologist Abraham Maslow calls “Peak Experience.”

William James has spoken of the vertical universe

The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that although in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.From The Philosophy of William James, New York: The Modern Library, pg. 232.

Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila introduces the way in to the vertical universe when she teaches her sisters:

For we ourselves are the castle: and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of ‘being’ in a place. Many souls remain in the outer court of the castle, which is the place occupied by the guards; they are not interested in entering it, and hove no idea what there is in that wonderful place, or who dwells in it, or even how many rooms it has. You will have read certain books on prayer which advise the soul to enter within itself; and that is exactly what this  means. –From Interior Castle, translated and edit by E. Allison Peers, A Doubleday Image book, pg. 31.

The point is: many have spoken of this vertical universe, but because it is a still place, how can it be defined? It is bound to be, in a sense, an individual experience and in another sense, a completely universal one.

rumi

 

 

 

 

 

Pico Iyer Speaks on Stillness with Oprah today

Today at 11am EST, essayist and novelist Pico Iyer is on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. If you miss it,  you should be able to watch the full episode for a short period of time on her website.

This is a tie-in with his book and TED talk, The Art of Stillness.  I have not yet read the book, but if anyone else has, I’d love to hear comments.

A little poem by Mary Oliver

 

I really love this poem, and it definitely inspires stillness.

 

Today
by Mary Oliver

 

Today I’m flying low and I’m

not saying a word.

I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

 

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.

And so forth.

 

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

 

Stillness. One of the doors

into the temple.

 

Oliver, Mary. “Today.” A Thousand Mornings. New York: The Penguin Press, 2012. p.23. Print.

The art of silence: A virtual museum to inspire stillness

Silence exercise for the week: Go to a museum

When was the last time you went to a museum? There is so much inspiration for silence there!

I just went to a museum today: Not the Guggenheim–the Google museum.  In an effort to find non-verbal inspiration for stillness, I went to Google Images and here is what I found.

Which of these paintings inspires the stillness in you?

Are you inspired by nature?

Leonid-Afremov-Winter-Silence

Leonid-Afremov-Winter-Silence

Or..

Joseph Mallord William Turner:  Norham Castle: Sunrise

Joseph Mallord William Turner: Norham Castle: Sunrise

Are you inspired by order?

Laszio Thorsen Nagel: Plaid Strokes

Laszio Thorsen Nagel: Plaid Strokes

Or randomness?

Joan Miro: Woman and Bird in the Night

Joan Miro: Woman and Bird in the Night

Or minimalism?

Justin Page Wood: Taupe

Justin Page Wood: Taupe

How about the face of stillness?

Detail of an angel in Madonna of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci: Detail of an angel in Madonna of the Rocks

Personally, I am inspired by images of empty rooms, light, and windows.

Lee Ufan: Silence Room

Lee Ufan: Silence Room

Looking Back: Ida Lorentzen

Ida Lorentzen: Looking Back

Figure at a Window: Salvadore Dali

Salvador Dali: Figure at a Window

Have I inspired you to visit a museum this week? If you roll up all the time you usually spend on Facebook in a typical week, you will likely have enough time to stop by a museum or gallery in your town or city. If you’re looking for some more quiet in your life, this is a good way to do it.

Don’t “think” while you’re there. Don’t seek out specific artists. Don’t look at the titles of the paintings. Seek out the ones that speak to your soul and sit with them for a few minutes. Soak them up. Art is a great cure for the noisies.

Noises off: The two channels of chatter

IMG_0926“In a sense, silence is God.” –Anthony de Mello

No one can dispute the lack of silence these days. Gone are the days when your boss could only contact you between 9 and 5. Gone are the days when you had to actually be home to get a phone call. Gone are the days when TV was a family event that took place after the dinner hour. No Hulu or Netflix or on demand programming to access on a variety of devices in a variety of places. It has all crept up on us so… silently. And now here we are–if our lives were a forest and noisy distractions were weeds–we would be an overgrown mess.

But there is another form of chatter that gets in the way of silence. My husband and I once went to a 3-day silent retreat. Initially I thought it would be great to get away from it all with my book and chill out from my busy life. But this silence? This was deafening silence. It was like quitting  heroin and dealing with withdrawal. I couldn’t focus on my book, because this silence kept ringing in my ears. When I saw my husband at dinner, his face confirmed he had the same experience–but his withdrawal had been even more crippling. “Whoa–that freaked me out!” he told me. “I had to sit with my thoughts!  That was scary!” IMG_1422To go back to the forest analogy, many say that silence is like the sun to us.  Silence is not just a microsecond of space between two sounds. It’s active. It’s real. We need it in order to be a fully realized human being. If we allow the weeds of busyness, human interaction, and constant distractions to proliferate unattended, the sun can’t reach our souls.

When I went on that retreat, I thought that all that was going to happen would be the absence of external noise. But as my husband testified, after the external noise is gone, what is left is an internal noise that remained to be dealt with. Now that’s the hard part. You can shut off your computer, but it’s harder to shut off your thoughts. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this RNST: Radio Non-Stop Thinking.

When we listen to music, read a book, or pick up a newspaper, it’s usually not because we truly need that activity or information. We often do it mechanically–perhaps because we’re used to doing it or because we want to ‘kill time’ and fill up the discomfiting sense of empty space. –Thich Nhat Hanh in Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World full of Noise

So my discovery at that Benedictine retreat is that there are two kinds of noise: exterior and interior. The exterior noise is the bombardment of Facebook news feeds, text messages, advertising messages, ringtones, superficial human interactions, TV shows, CNN headlines.  Interior noise is the mental chatter that keeps our mind from setting down–the replaying of the past and the fears and hopes of the future–in other words, stuff that doesn’t even exist. The antidote to exterior noise is unplugging from the outside chatter. The antidote to interior noise is plugging in–to the present moment.

Thankfully we don’t need a three-day retreat to face silence head-on. All we need is mindfulness and awareness. As anyone who has practiced meditation can attest, growing in awareness is like practicing any discipline–you start and take few steps and expect it to be difficult until it isn’t. But on the other hand, those who are more practiced agree that you can’t “achieve” meditation results, because unlike our bucket lists and our financial goals, success in meditation is success at just being. Often silence and beingness just come in a flash. The Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello, author of Seek God Everywhere, Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, relays one of his singular experiences in awareness:

The day before yesterday I went to say Mass for some people in the seminary. I rose early in the morning and went outside to wait for a group of scholastics (Jesuits in training who have not taken final vows). It was quite cold. I was looking up at the sky and this thing hit me, this silence. It lasted for about a minute, but I am still experiencing the effects of it. It is the world we know but there is no knowing. We suddenly sense it. Each of us experiences it in different ways.

What has your experience been in mindfulness? How do you cultivate it in your life? When has it caught you by surprise? Please feel free to comment.

My theme for Lent: Speaking up about silence

Yawn.. stretch…Good morning!  Has a year really gone by already?

The name of the blog is Silent Entry and that title has proven to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I haven’t wanted to write. Words just weren’t coming! The past year has been a chrysalis of words and ideas in hibernation. Yet I haven’t wanted to disturb this foment of wordlessness or prod it prematurely. Words this past year have been unwanted, and diversionary, and writing itself felt like a tailoring a cloak for a manikin . Yes, having a blog in which a silence is a journey becomes its own enemy.

But now, Ash Wednesday seems like a good time to wake up and explore silence itself: explore the everyday tension between silence and words; silence and thought; silence and movement; silence and the physical world; silence and the interior world.

Alrighty then.. where’s that snooze button?  That’s enough stretching of my atrophied writer’s sea legs for now. But moving forward, this Lent I intend to provide support and ideas for growing the spaces between our thoughts and turning down the noise in everyday life.  I think this quote by Kierkegaard is a nice place to start:

As my prayer become more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.

–Søren Kierkegaard, quoted by Joachim Berendt in The Third Ear, translated by Tim Nevill (Shaftsbury, England: Element Books, 1988).

 

Releasing the obsession with possession is a me-hugging idea

churchill-giving-quote1Pope Francis’s latest tough-love sting was against people who are too wrapped up in consumerism, at the cost of our spiritual individual and collective lives.

We live in a world that is always more artificial, in a culture of ‘making,’ of ‘profit,’ where without realizing it, we exclude God from our horizon…
Often today, giving freely is not part of daily life, where everything can be bought and sold, where everything is calculated and measured — Pope Francis, March 5, 2014
Instead of keeping balance sheets in the heart, he tells us that the best way to give is to not expect anything in return.  This way, he said, people can free themselves “from the obsession of possession, from the fear of losing what we own, from the sadness of those who do not want to share their well-being with others.”

He tells us that the downside of not just having stuff, but loving our stuff, costs more than cash or credit because it’s taxed with our peace of mind.  Once you have stuff, you invite fear–fear of losing it, fear of having it taken.  We have to be on alert and vigilant.  Maybe even anxious.  Perhaps that’s why so many people think back nostalgically to times when they had nothing, but were happy.  I remember when my husband and I were just married, we had very little.  We were leaving for the day shortly after moving into our first place, and I asked him, “Shouldn’t we lock the door?”  To which he responded, “Nah, if a robber came in, he’d probably feel sorry for us and leave us a buck.”

I got no lock on the door
That’s no way to be
They can steal the rug from the floor
That’s OK with me
Cause the things that I prize
Like the stars in the skies
All are free!
–I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin, George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess

So excessive attachment to our stuff causes us to be fearful.  Pope Francis also talks about the sadness obsession with possession brings, because being preoccupied with our stuff cuts us off from others.  We become territorial.  We develop a “what’s mine is mine” mentality, and to protect what’s mine, like every toddler, we become little watchdogs to prevent others from getting too close.  It’s a zero-sum game.   If they get, I lose.

Well, actually, some say it’s not a zero-sum game.   When I share or when I give, I don’t lose.  I gain.  Who says so?  Well, the Bible for one, which instructs us to give our first one-tenth to God.  And what does that do?  It makes us prosper.  It makes US prosperous.  And this is not just a woo-woo idea by a New Age author or a biblical scholar.  George Clason says in the classic prosperity book, The Richest Man in Babylon.  Modern-day financial guru David Bach teaches the same in his blog:

This notion—that the more we give back to others, the more comes back to us—is not simply a religious doctrine; it is virtually a law of nature. If you are looking to attract more wealth and happiness into your life, the fastest way I know how is to give more.

He said it–it is a law of nature.  We are hard-wired to share.  It makes us feel good, and somehow a flow is generated by giving that acts like a boomerang–it all comes back to us with more.   Obsession with stuff=sad; Sharing=glad!    Plus, a side benefit of letting go of obsession with possession is that by buying less, you are minimizing the impact of all this stuff on our air, land, and water.

In short, sharing, giving, and anti-consumerism may sound like a tree-hugging idea, but it is really a me-hugging idea.

How do we know if we are obsessed with our stuff?   Good question.  Richard Foster, in his book Freedom of Simplicity, offers a simple way to find out.   He says to start by just giving something away.   Not that ugly shirt you got for Christmas.  Give away your favorite shirt.   Just for the fun of it.  Examine your feelings when you do.     Frankly, as for me, way too often when I think about releasing many of my own possessions I feel exactly like that young man in the New Testament that turned away sad after Jesus proposed to him that his possessions may be coming between him and his spiritual yearnings.   Like him, I’ve already flunked the entrance exam.

We have, for the past several decades, established the paradigm that progress is measured in GDP.  Outward upward mobility is more important than inward upward mobility.   But we are seeing that there is a hangover that comes with the addiction to stuff.  We are seeing many symptoms of a sick society, and it’s nothing a little more sharing, a little less hoarding couldn’t cure.

I remember a book I read in grammar school about a dad who gave his son and daughter each their own garden to tend.  Each child started with the same size plot of land and the same number of flower seeds.  Both gardens grew and flourished.   One day the boy decided to cut some flowers for his teacher; his sister didn’t want to deprive herself of the beautiful blooms she had cultivated.  One day the boy decided to cut some flowers for the elderly neighbor; again, the sister didn’t want to share the flowers–she was enjoying them too much.  The boy continued to cut his flowers and give them away; the girl continued to keep them for herself.

Anyone who knows anything about gardening knows exactly what happened.  The boys garden soon was prolific in its blooms–because every flower cut yielded at least two more.  The girl’s garden unfortunately just went to seed and languished.   The moral of the story if obvious.  Who had the prettiest garden now?

Some people, proponents of the gift economy like Charles Eisenstein, are suggesting that maybe we see that this story is not just a parable about a family garden–but perhaps the concepts are true on a global scale.  Perhaps we dismantle some of the economic dogmas that are proving to be counter-productive, such as the idea that hoarding money–when our brothers are in need and when our resources are being decimated–might bite us in the butt very soon.  Maybe we have to redefine progress on an individual level, and then scale that up to local and global models of economic development.

We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.  –C.S. Lewis

Change? Or Be Changed?

During these sleepy, snowy winter days, I have been reading a book called Stepping Out of Self-Deception:  The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self by Rodney Smith.  This is the kind of book you read with a highlighter.

One line that the author quoted really hit me…

We are not here to change the world.  The world is here to change us.”

Yikes–that seems like totally convoluted to many of us.   Some of us who wind up being “Helpers” or “Idealists” in our Enneagrams see this differently.  Haven’t we been attached to our thoughts about how messed up this world is?  Don’t we go into careers driven to our part to change the world?  Don’t we feel the frustration when we see all that is wrong with the world–all that has to be done–and how futile it seems?   We feel like Atlas with the world’s problems on our shoulders–Oh, if only everyone saw the world the way we do!

Even if we wear our “Be the Change you Want to See in the World” it implies action and effort.  But my take-away from Rodney Smith’s quote and from the commentary on it made by Smith is that there is a lot of letting go that needs to occur before we take on the world, or even ourselves.  We are so motivated by “results,” by “goals,” that our self-improvement projects are like an old Victorian home waiting to be restored, making us Weekend Warriors on our own souls.

I can in no way succinctly or accurately describe Smith’s simple illustration of how we move in the horizontal plane vs. the vertical, but in short, the horizontal is where we are most comfortable because it is the road between the past and the future, and all the baggage we take with us on that journey–our memories, our sense perceptions, or fears, our hopes, our to-do lists.  The vertical is where the here and now, where simply “being” resides.   (Forgive me, Mr. Smith for my oversimplification!)   While each has its place, and integration between the horizontal and the vertical is important, we spend too much time on the horizontal, and then when we try to seek the vertical, we become disoriented because it requires leaving behind the land of the horizontal, where we’ve spent our whole lives.   If the horizontal is the head, the vertical is the heart.

We need to find a home in this vertical world of the Present in order to really change.  One of the things that this requires is being still.   It’s hard to harbor stillness in the horizontal.   But the vertical plane is where we get “the right answer” about who we truly are.  We don’t need to “decide” anything, or do checklists to determine our life path.  In fact, we don’t have to “do” anything.    Just allow ourselves to go home to our real selves.

If the idea of allowing the world to change us sounds kind of scary (what, THIS world?  I don’t want to be like this world!), the author doesn’t mean the material world.  He means, I think that, as I was taught by the Benedictine monks, we need to open up the ear of our heart and listen and be responsive to what we  hear.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and so I’m going to concentrate on that this Lent.  Of course “doing something for Lent” is a horizontal plane task, but I’ll just use it as the bus to get me to that space where I can suspend my mind and rest easy in my heart for a spell.

you-have-the-power-to-be-changed

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