Silence and compassion
LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE explores the beauty of silence, and the need of the hour for love and compassion. He invites us to listen to the song of unity, and embrace a world waiting to be born.
1. How can we reconnect with our deeper selves, our essential nature?
There are many ways to reconnect with our essential nature. Any spiritual practice, prayer or meditation that takes us beneath the surface of our daily life, beneath the clutter of the mind and the demands of the outer world, can be a place of reconnection, a place where we can rest inwardly and be nourished by the deeper roots of our being. And if we need an added ingredient to help us in this work, silence is most valuable, especially in today’s world where noise surrounds us more and more. To learn to be present in an inner and outer silence is a doorway to what is real within ourselves and in the world around us.
And as our world appears to spin more and more out of balance – temperatures and sea levels rising, species depleted – there is a pressing need to return to a this deep place, a place of belonging where real healing and transformation can take place. Returning to our essential self, we may find a balance resurfacing from deep within, a balance that reconnects and restores us, and also allows us to contribute in unseen ways.
One of Carl Jung’s favorite stories was The Rainmaker, in which a world out of balance, in a time of drought and suffering, was healed not through activity but through a rainmaker retiring to a hut in silence. Three days later the rain came and the drought was over. When he was asked how he brought the rain, he replied, “Oh, I can explain that. I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order, they are not as they should be by the ordinance of heaven. Therefore the whole country is not in Tao, and I am also not in the natural order of things because I am in a disordered country.
“So I had to wait three days until I was back in Tao, and then naturally the rain came.”
If we are to participate creatively in these toxic times, to bring rain to a land where the inner and outer wells have run dry, first we need to be present “in another country where things are in order.” And this “other country” is not so far away. It can be found in the Earth beneath our feet, and in the space between the in-breath and the out-breath where the soul is present. But first we need to reconnect, to return to this place of balance. And the simplest way is through stillness and silence.
Silence draws us inward, away from the clutter and distractions of our outer life, to the deeper roots of our being. Here our soul nourishes us, here we can be replenished, and here we can help replenish our world. The Earth is dying from the ravages of our culture, of our materialistic nightmare that pollutes the air we breathe, the water we drink, and starves our soul from its natural connection to the sacred. In the silence we can drink deeply of the waters of life that are still pure, we can commune with the primal forces of nature, we can return to what is sacred and essential to our life and to the life of the Earth.
Here, in this “other country,” the air is not toxic, and the miasma of today’s world in this post-truth era is not blurring our vision. The laughter of children rings true. Stillness is here, and the seasons are in balance. Every in-breath and out-breath is sacred. The breath, the soul, the Earth and its seasons, are linked together, nourished by each other. It is a time to heal.
Sitting here at my window, I look out onto the wetlands. I watch the tides rise and fall, the sun red in the morning, sometimes breaking through the mist. Traffic may pass on the road just beneath me, the early morning milk truck, but the silence remains. As I get older I am less and less drawn to activity, more of me remains in stillness, sensing the Earth, watching the birds at my birdfeeder – I love the woodpecker with his bright red crest. Now it is springtime, apple and cherry blossoms already carpeting the ground.
2. How can we create or reimagine a more compassionate world from within the current structures?
There is a world waiting to be born, a world founded upon cooperation rather than competition, a world that honors all life in its diversity and wonder. A compassionate world in which we return to what is simple and essential and remember the “Original Instructions” given to our ancestors and held by Indigenous Wisdom Keepers about “how to get long with all of creation.” And this world, which seems so different to the broken structures of today’s divisive and exploitative culture, is not so far away. It is a world seen through the eyes, the consciousness of oneness, rather than the consciousness of separation. It is a simple shift from “me” to “we.”
Oneness holds the essential vision that we are one living, interconnected ecosystem – a living Earth that supports and nourishes all of its inhabitants. If we acknowledge and honor this simple reality, we can begin to participate in the vital work of healing our fractured and ravaged world and embrace a living unity that is our human heritage. This is the opportunity that is being offered to us, even as its dark twin is constellating the dynamics of nationalism, tribalism, isolationism, and all the other regressive forces that try to divide us.
Oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something essential and ordinary. It is in every breath, in the wing-beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left on city streets. This oneness is life – life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, through the distortions of our culture, but known within the heart, felt in the soul. This oneness is the heartbeat of life. It is for each of us to live and celebrate this oneness, to participate in its beauty and wonder. And through our awareness, and actions born of this awareness, we can help to reconnect our world with its original nature.
There are many ways to experience and participate in this living oneness. But if I have learned anything after half a century of spiritual practice, it is the power of love. Love comes in so many forms and expressions. There are the simple acts of loving kindness towards friends and family, members of our community, or strangers. Love reaches across boundaries, expressing what is most essential and human: what unites rather than divides. “Small things with great love,” are more potent and powerful than we realize, because they reconnect us with the spiritual roots of life and its transformative and healing energies. Because life is an expression of love, each act of love is a participation and gift to the whole.
Cooking a meal with love and care, listening to another’s troubles with an open heart, touching your lover’s body with tenderness, or going deep in prayer until you merge in love’s infinite ocean – in all these acts, we live the love that unites us. And through our loving, we nourish life in unseen ways.
And at this time of ecological crisis, as we are tearing apart the fragile web of life, there is a vital need for us to love the Earth, to bring her into our hearts and prayers. We have a spiritual as well as a physical responsibility for “our common home,” and she is calling out to us, crying for our help and healing.”
We need to reawaken to the power of love in the world. It is our love for the Earth that will heal what we have desecrated, that will guide us through this wasteland and help us to bring light back into our darkening world. Love links us all together in the most mysterious ways, and love can guide our hearts and hands. The central note of love is oneness. Love speaks the language of oneness, of unity rather than separation.
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Real change will only happen
when we fall in love with our planet.
Only love can show us how to live
in harmony with nature and with each other and
save us from the devastating effects of
environmental destruction and climate change.”
Love can open us to our deep participation in the life of the whole; it can teach us once again how to listen to life, feel life’s heartbeat, sense its soul. It can open us to the sacred within all of creation and can reconnect us with our primal knowing that the Divine is present in everything – in every breath, every stone, every animate and inanimate thing. In the oneness of love, everything is included, and everything is sacred.
And from there, we can begin to respond. We cannot return to the simplicity of an indigenous lifestyle, but when we let love guide us we become more aware of the oneness of life. We recognize that how we are and what we do at an individual level affects the global environment, both outer and inner. We can learn how to live in a more sustainable way, according to a deeper understanding of sustainability that rests on an acknowledgment of the sacred within creation. We can live more simply, saying no to unnecessary material things in our outer lives. We can also work inwardly to heal the spiritual imbalance in the world. Our individual conscious awareness of the sacred within creation reconnects the split between spirit and matter within our own soul. Also, because we are so much more a part of the spiritual body of the Earth than we realize, within the soul of the world.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love draws us back to love, love uncovers love, love makes us whole, and love takes us Home. In the depths of the soul we are loved by God. This is the deepest secret of being human, the bond of love that is at the core of our being and belongs to all that exists. And the more we live this love, the more we give ourselves to this mystery that is both human and divine, the more fully we participate in life as it really is, in its wonder and moment-by-moment revelation.
Love and care – care for each other, care for the Earth – are the simplest and most valuable human qualities. And love belongs to oneness. We know this in our human relationships, how love draws us closer, and in its most intimate moments we can experience physical union with another. It can also awaken us to the awareness that we are one human family, even as our rulers become more authoritarian, our politics more divisive. And on the deepest level, love can reconnect us with our essential unity with all of life, with the Earth herself.
The Earth is a living oneness born from love, being remade by love each instant. And we can be part of its spiritual transformation, its awakening. The Earth is waiting and needing our participation. It has been wounded by our greed and exploitation, and by our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. It needs us to remember and reconnect, to live the oneness that is our true nature. And love is the simplest key to this oneness, this remembrance. Love is the most ordinary, simplest, and most direct way to uncover what is real – the innermost secrets of life. It is at the root of all that exists, as well as in every bud breaking open at springtime, every fruit ripening in fall.
Love will remind us that we are a part of life, and that we belong to each other and to this living, suffering planet. Love will reconnect us to the sacred ways known to our ancestors, as well as awaken us to new ways to be with each other and the Earth. We just need to say, “Yes,” to this mystery within our own hearts, to open to the link of love that unites us all, that is woven into the web of life. And then we will uncover the love affair that is life itself and hear the song of unity as it comes alive in our hearts and the heart of the world.
Article by LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE
Illustrations by JASMEE RATHOD
December 31, 2019
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