Monday, October 17, 2016
A week in silence
I will not enter into great detail, such as how much relief and energy the moon - which was by the way the most beautifully glowing, orange colored wanning gibbous I have ever seen in my life - gave me in the toughest of moments, or how sensationally the sky was lit up by the stars that night, or how when the last tear snuck out a star fell...
I will not go into all of that. Because if I would, this post would become so long I'd have to publish it in a book.
But I decided still, even though it isn't easy to find the right words, to share some of my thoughts and a tiny part of my experience of a week spent in silence on the hill of Taize to perhaps inspire you to try something of the likes of it, or to at least offer some form of consolation in that you are not alone in your quest for the truth, or in your intention of finding your place in the world through the moments of joy and those of pain, but mostly through all that space of presence in between.
I woke rested and centered. Saturday's seminar in Rome continued to pulse in my veins, and I had the powerful intention to nurture that crisp energy that it went on feeding to my soul. Lighthearted and smiling, I walked back after the morning prayer to the house we (and by that I mean all the girls) called home for the week ahead of us. About half way between Taize and Ameugny I saw my roommate (whom I have already met the day before and surprisingly discovered later that we were to live in the same room) standing there smiling at the sun that winked out warmly from among the airy clouds.
When we met on Sunday evening, rainy and cold weather was threatening the days ahead, and she wasn't too hopeful of any kind of change in that regard. I told her, that tomorrow, when the clouds part and the sun will shine, she will smile and will remember me...
A holiday spent "alone" in silence is hardly your typical dream vacation, yet to me it had such a magnetic pull. I felt guided to do it, even though I have no real answers, not even now, as I am typing these paragraphs. Lacking the serious reasoning behind this call within my soul, I playfully decided to name the search for a blue butterfly the core of my very purpose of being there... A thought silly enough to raise no resistance and a fun enough task to delight my creativity.
I was eager to take a walk along the Voie Verte to meet my friend, Pierre. I first met him, or her, I never actually checked, a year ago. Just when I needed a friend the most, he happened to walk my way.
In the afternoon I went for a long walk to find reasons to feel grateful and to meet him. I reached the house he lives in, but saw no sign of him. I called out several times to no avail. Finally I just accepted that he wasn't there, and let go of the preconceived idea I had visualized, so I walked on. Suddenly I turned right, just in time to see him running among the cows, wanly meowing and trying to look for a hole in the thick green fence to come greet me. He managed. Ran up to the walking path, put down the mouse he was carrying right after he squeezed it between his teeth a little more, making sure it would not run away. Ever. Again. And then finally ran to me.
Funny, isn't it? Humans often hold on to what they want so tightly, that they can hardly see the forest from the tree. And the moment you let go of controlling your experiences is the very space where dreams can come to reality.
I have found a secret place today.
In fact it is hardly a secret at all, except in my own experience. There is a bench, just down the road, behind a line of trees, overlooking cows feeding down in the valley. It happens to be the most perfect of benches I ever sat on; high enough even for my long legs not to touch the ground, but to playfully bounce back and forth to the rhythm of the tiny waterfall across the main street.
I closed my eyes to better enjoy the silence within.
I must have stayed like that for quite a while, when from the quiet thoughtless space the idea of a squirrel emerged. I could feel one being so close by. Just a few moments later the noise arrived too, and not long after as I opened my eyes and turned back, I gazed the tiny soul on the tree right behind me.
So what do you do when you can feel yourself falling? Nothing. You do nothing.
You just hang on tight and hope it will be over soon. The more you try to fight against the crash on landing, the harder you hit yourself.
Most of the time we are unable to recognize the fall before we actually crash.
Not this time. The truer part of me was standing by, smiling and dwelling firmly in the knowing of the process. So I let myself be drawn into the tornado that swirls up in life every now and again. I took on a different road then ever before and surrendered to allow it to gently carry me to wherever I needed to go.
I just turned the corner as we parted, looking up to the sky. Never have I had tears burst out so unannounced, from such a deep space within; one I hadn't known existed. Not shaking, not trembling. The silent kind, that builds up in the eyes and gently starts to descend on the cheeks.
Yet sadness takes up a different meaning when it is forgiven. When it is not withheld, repressed. When it is not shoved under the rug or it doesn't constitute the building blocks of the walls that were recently so magnificently torn down.
And so I can only ask this: if there were no questions arising even in the midst of a peaceful and balanced time, would there be any new answers? Are these contrasting times not an invitation to deepen our trust and nurture the tiny seed that has always been planted in our hearts, the little seed that is ready to sprout whenever we allow it to...
After all, it is not every day that I sit face to face with the soul dearest to my heart and in the same time the one I must accept living without.
There I was, walking into the calm of Thursday morning, marvelling at the beauty and complexity of our world, with a heart filled with questions that lack the very words that make them up. And then a blue butterfly fluttered its sky-blue wings in front of my nose.
I can hardly expect myself to figure out the path to which I am guided toward in the blink of an eye. And I am hardly more capable of convincing my heart to abandon a feeling, than my ability of using logical reasoning to persuade the flames of a fire to cool down. Recognizing that going down that old path of sadness no longer suits the intention I hold up for myself in life was such a discovery!
So for now I rejoice in the sole quest of the discovery of blue butterflies.
Halfway through our week; and by the time the night had settled in, I could feel the depth of the purpose of my choice to spend this week in this manner so vividly -and yet so very mysteriously- widening.
After taking a shower in the afternoon, I made myself a -what I like to think was the thousandth- mint tea, and went out to the back wall of the "Silence House" property, sat under the tallest walnut tree to dry my hair in the fading sun. It got me thinking, how a life such as this may be appealing. I have always enjoyed living in community with people, while living in different volunteering sites; but a spiritual oriented community living is truly something else. Life's pace, and orientation of self... like one no longer belongs to oneself... tending to the common life first and foremost naturally returns to fulfil one's own journey. And I cannot help but contemplate the possibility of such a way of life, in colors, building a family rooted in letting go of personal ambitions and instead surrendering to a higher purpose.
Later that evening I remember standing in awe, witnessing the most breathtaking, vibrantly sharp pink reflection of the setting sun on the horizon contrasted by light blue and rich ash grey -a swirl of colors which seemed to match the depth of sensations I was about to experience within-, that a feeling came up in my heart out of the blue. A feeling so powerful and revealing that I could feel my whole body trembling in excitement on the inside. Like it was the answer for my existence, the very purpose for everything that I am and all I will ever be.
There are so many things we think we know, just to realize we never really did. So much of what constitutes our knowledge is conditioned; planted into our unconscious from a very early age by the environment we live in, by the society we actively or passively participate in, by the experiences we create. How much more valuable is the knowledge that is born from a reversed process, from the inside out? So the next time you find yourself having a very strong opinion about something, ask yourself where it comes from and how does it make you feel. Your soul will always guide you to the truth within.
Towards the end of the week people start to understand each other. Not through the superficial means of words, but on a deeper level. Where knowing your grandmother's name is entirely irrelevant to truly knowing you (read that with a hint of irony). You tend to open your senses to receive emotions just by carefully observing, and thus getting to know a perfect stranger you've been living with for almost a week now so much better than you would through conventional communication.
There was a silent agreement among the girls to meet after the evening prayer and walk those two kilometers to the house back together. Some felt a little bit uneasy about having to walk alone in the pitch dark. But I've always enjoyed to spend time alone in the resting nature.
Later that night as I laid my head on the pillow of my sleeping bag I exhaled and felt my heart overflow with gratitude, for there is this place in the -often considered harsh- world, where a woman can still walk alone in the middle of the dark night of the country side, waltzing her way back home to the song of night-bugs, with her head among the stars and her arms wide open, and be safe without a trace of fear.
The alarm in the room next door went off. I could hear it clearly even through my earplugs.
I sat up and quietly turned to the side of the bed, searched for my glasses with my eyes still closed and placing them on my nose I looked around in the room. There is hardly any furniture. Just the three beds, three chairs and a desk. I have my luggage at the end of the bed I'm sleeping in, and my roommate has her backpack at the feet of the bed next to the window. The bed in the middle of the room is empty, so she stacked her clothes neatly on top of it.
There I was, by then fully awake, contemplating how little we really need.
Much of my adult life was spent living out of a suitcase. Only in recent years have I been offered a lifestyle which allows for cupboards and drawers.
All the stuff we tend to gather around us, properties, furniture, appliances, clothes, gadgets and more... I wonder how much we truly need. Or want, even.
The more I silenced my mind, the more my heart spoke out. It is the inner space that needs nurturing, not the surrounding environment. The latter will naturally be tended to when the former is the priority.
On the last full day of the week in silence we had a small sharing in the morning where each of us was invited to share, in just a few sentences about our discovery, direction, conclusion or whatever words came up after such a reflective week. A little over 15 young women living under the same roof for a week, sharing meals, sharing time and space, smiles, chores and priceless moments of silent acknowledgement of each other's existence... And while I was fully aware that each of them had a world of their own, the moment one of them had whispered the simplest words of her discovery to trust, I felt a warm glow in my chest, felt my eyes fill up with tears and my heart with the deepest kind of gratitude, and stood there, marveling at how beautiful they all were in their quest of finding their way in this magnificent univers. Being there with these young women is silence, in words, in prayer and in presence was, without a doubt, the biggest gift this week had in store for me.
Our true potential, as human beings, has no limitations. And the moment we understand that the challenges we face do not just happen to us, rather they appear in our life for us is when a shift begins to come about. Once we truly get that, we not only rise above the problems we face, but we use them to guide us on our journey.
That early morning air, that freshness caressing my bare arms, the gentle scent of fall entering my lungs and my entire body... As though there is nothing before or beyond that very moment in time.
I walked through the field to the back wall one last time to face the rising sun. And in that space of clarity I heard the voice of a man I once met on a plane saying, that on the threshold of a new era in life I must always remember to set an intention and allow it to guide me.
The fullness of that moment is indescribable.
I intend to let love guide my entire existence. I intend to be a prism of God's love. Always. Under all circumstances. And forgive myself when I fail to become it. I intend to rise from that moment of failure, I intent to rise above it and return to a state of joyful, compassionate and loving center. I intend to be more forgiving not only with the people around me, but also with myself. I intend to speak from a space of love, and act from it. And mostly I intend to dwell in that space even when I am asked to lower to be with someone outside that space. I intend not to go there with my emotions, but listen, and then through my example I intend to lift others. I intend to allow life to happen, instead of making it happen. And I intend to be persistent in my commitment to deliberately return myself to my foundation.
Now some of you may be inclined to wonder what the purpose of - foolishly- rambling about clouds, cats, benches, butterflies and who knows what other non-sense I went on and on about in great detail is. I was after all spending an organized week in silence in a christian monastery, praying three times a day, asked to reflect on Bible texts and pray with verses, meditate with them. And here I am sharing my experience and basically all I can recall is how different acorns were from the ones I collect at home. So what about all that spiritual revelation I at times refer to and refrain from elaborating?
I could do that. But as I said when I started this post, I fail to see the point. My discovery is mine to hold onto. It is my responsibility to nurture it and keep it alive and active. After all, the abundance of words I could ever find would never really educate, but actively living what I speak might...
Yet if I were to suggest anything, it would be for you to never cease to explore the variety of options God lays out before you to fulfill the assignment you were given. And remember, that the very purpose most people are so diligently seeking for their lives is to trust. Yes. To trust. We might think we know a concrete purpose every now and again, but we never truly ever do, because it is always changing, always unfolding, always becoming. And in the ever changing scenery our life unfolds in perfect orchestration. Our only task is to trust and allow that which we could never even be able conceive to manifest.