It is September and I am ready to get back to a spiritual routine. Meditation and writing my blog are two parts of my discipline. In August I was asked to provide leadership for two 7:00 am contemplative services at the church I attend, Hillhurst United in Calgary. In the first service I used the experience of silence as my main focus. In my blog #13 I reflected on Stephon Alexander’s book, The Jazz of Physics. One significant discovery that Alexander explained at the end of the book was how matter (something) was created in a vacuum (which we usually think of as empty or nothing). As I read this, my own mind made a connection with the quality of “silence” in the spiritual practice of meditation.
In several types of meditation we try to get rid of thoughts/inner chatter that are sometimes called “monkey mind”. I find this a difficult task, but have come to understand the value of developing a way to discipline the mind in meditation. Of course there are also some forms of meditations for other purposes that use the mind to reflect and respond to guidance received in meditation.
Alexander says a vacuum (which we call space) is not empty. That space between is where everything can happen. It is the place of possibility. Often when we refer to silence we mean finding a quiet place or a break in our busy routine, so we can relax, recover and renew ourselves, so we can connect to the Presence and hear the voice of God. But the silence we seek in meditation or some other spiritual practice is something deeper–the absence of noise within us. Spiritual teaching says that prayer and meditation are practices that connect us with the divine presence; it is the way we enter into silence where we listen and wait and come to know we are in the presence of love that renews, guides and heals us. It is really something absolutely positive where no noise can ever penetrate. Nothing in the outside world can disturb it/us when we are rooted in it. It has infinite depth. It is really something!
Osho, in his book, TAROT in the Spirit of ZEN, pp 40-41 says, “You may feel uncomfortable getting close to silence because you are noise which is the chatter of your mind and your ego. When the mind disappears, there is silence and you are close to your authentic center. You are in the moment. To love silence is to discover the power of love which is the presence of God”.
When I sit with a directee or a group after I have initiated a time of meditation or reflection, we sit in silence. The silence is the space between us, between what I know and what the other knows and what the Holy Presence is revealing to us. I watch and observe. A lot is happening in the silence: potential, connections, waves of insight.
This year in our meditation services we are using the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading). This is a Benedictine practice of listening for the voice of the holy/truth/wisdom and entering into communion with that truth. In Lectio Divina we read the text three times. In the formal practice the purpose is:
First Reading: Awareness – Hearing the Word. This is not analysis. It is being open to the reading and the task of being aware of what word or phrase stands out for you and is calling for your attention.
Second Reading: Meditation on the word. You embrace the Word, hold it in your heart and mind. You ponder, question, make connections, let a response come to you, hold it lightly. Do not censor what comes to mind. You may want to write something down to remember, to remind yourself of some wisdom from the word or passage.
Third Reading: Contemplation Now the Word embraces you, you rest in the word and wonder what response/action is being called for in your life. You sit in silence.
The text I used for this service is from Inviting Silence by Gunilla Norris.
“Within each of us there is a silence
-a silence as vast as the universe.
We are afraid of it…
and we long for it.
When we experience that silence,
we remember who we are:
creatures of the stars,
created from the birth of galaxies,
created from dust and gas,
created from the elements,
created from time and space,
created from silence.
Silence is the source of all that exists,
the unfathomable stillness where vibration began…
the first word from which life emerged.
Silence is our deepest nature,
our home, our common ground, our peace
Silence reveals. Silence heals.
Silence is where God dwells.
We yearn to be there.
This reading is so rich for me. I have kept it in my life for many years and it surfaces as truth for me from time to time. At this time in my life it sums up, in a poetic form, what spiritual practice is all about…leading to a unity with God…whatever name you use.