4/23/2010

Silence Is Already Here

















Why do we try to silence the mind? The kingdom of divine silence is already here. Silence has nothing to do with the mind's ceaseless thinking.

To be silent is not the mind's nature, any more than it is the nature of a songbird not to sing.

Silence is happening quite independently of thoughts. Silence is happening all around and between thoughts. Boundless blue sky contains a gray cloud: so silent awareness contains the mind, with all its chattering.

One experiences profound inward silence this very instant when awareness rests in its own luminous clarity, prior to thought. In other words, when one does nothing at all. Awareness can watch thoughts arise and vanish without being them.

There is no greater discovery than this: "I am not my thoughts! I am awareness! I am free!" Free to let thoughts play as they please. Free to let time past and time future come and go without worry, for time is nothing but thought. As waves of water don't disturb the sea, so thoughts of past and future can't disturb the eternal Presence in which they arise and subside.

Christianity is hunkered down in the notion of history, vested in stories of the past and prophecies of the future. What happened 2000 years ago, what will happen at the last judgment, and when Jesus might return, are bulwarks of Christian thinking. And there is all that anxious speculation about what will happen when I die, and whether my soul will get into heaven.

But what did Jesus actually teach about the nature of thinking, which is the nature of time?

"Take no thought," he said again and again. "Take no thought for your life... Which of you by taking thought can add one inch to your stature? ...Why take thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin... Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat or what shall we drink or how shall we be clothed?" (Matthew 6). The whole force of Jesus' teaching awakens us from the dream of thought and the anxiety of time, into the eternal kingdom of the present moment. This is why he concludes the sermon with the words, "Take no thought for tomorrow." Like most of us, Jesus' followers constantly worried about the future, but were dead to the miracle of Now. The Kingdom of God was not yet, not yet, and still not yet. But Jesus says in no uncertain terms,"The kingdom of heaven is right here in the midst of you!" (Luke 17:21)

He calls us not to heavy spiritual practice, but to ecstatic self-abandonment. Jesus says of his yoga: "My yoke is easy, my burden is light." (Mathew 11:30) The Sanskrit "yoga" and English "yoke" have the same linguistic root. Jesus invites you to live in fulfillment now: "that your joy may be full" (John 15:11).

Like Gautama Buddha, and contemporary Buddhas such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nath Hanh, Jesus revealed the eternal kingdom of Now, a kingdom that can never be known by thought. We believe in the future and the past, but we cannot believe in the present moment. We cannot think Presence: we must be aware of it.

Let us come home to the kingdom by resting our awareness in its own radiant emptiness. Homecoming happens any moment, any place, with the utterly simple resting of awareness in awareness.

Then wave after wave of joy arises from the mysterious stillness that is deeper than thought: causeless waves of effortless silence, flowing out, breaking on the world as an ocean of love. For love is not a practice. Love is what happens when there is no practitioner.

At morning's light, through April mist in still green caverns of forest silence, the day's first ordinary miracles:  a pink apple bud bursting into its diamond-white self, a robin startled by its own song.

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