Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you. For an interval. Somewhere. Very near. Just around the corner.
All is well.
~ Henry Scott Holland
The following passage was given to me by my good friend, Paul Veliyathil (1), author and hospice chaplain, who lovingly ministers to the dying and their loved ones…
The Beauty of Death
While death is a painful reality for the living, I believe, it is the most joyful and beautiful experience for the dying, because it is the release of the soul from the shackles of the body which is the source of all our problems. Besides, it is a homecoming, the re-joining of the individual soul with the Universal Soul, like the waves returning to the ocean.
People have always wondered what happens at the moment of death. Nobody has come back to tell us. However, Neale Donald Walsch, author of a series of books called “Conversations with God, ” in his book, “Home with God: In a Life that Never Ends,” gives the following description of the death experience, which is the best I have ever seen in print. He call it the “Moment of Mergence.” Here it goes:
“Again, words cannot be found to adequately define or accurately describe this feeling — partly because the feeling is huge. It might be characterized as a single, enormous conglomerate feeling that encompasses a thousand individual feelings, now slowly filling the soul. A feeble attempt would call it the feeling of being warmly embraced, deeply comforted, dearly cherished, profoundly appreciated, genuinely treasured, softly nurtured, profoundly understood, completely forgiven, wholly absolved, long awaited, happily welcome, totally honored, joyously celebrated, absolutely protected, instantly perfected, and unconditionally loved — all at once.”
I think of those whom I knew and who have transitioned from this physical dimension to another. I also think about my own transition, and how much I want to be prepared to welcome it peacefully and joyfully when the moment comes.
Every end is a new beginning. Every departure is followed by an arrival.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~ Emma Lazarus
A lot of fear erupted after the senseless acts of violence perpetrated by extremists in Paris and Brussels. Many of those who are sensitive to the suffering of refugees and immigrants, reflecting on what has happened in West Europe, are now hesitant about receiving more of them here. Some suggest that allowing people from many ethnicities into this country will make America unmanageable and dangerous. Is the mix of people of many different cultures and religions a problem? I don’t think so. Looking at America, and reviewing its history, we conclude that this is a land of immigrants. We are people from all over the world living together in relative peace. Some suggest that allowing immigrants into this country will only create more ghettos and make the United States less safe. They say that ghettos are the breeding grounds of terrorists. Yes, there are ghettos in America, as there are in many other cities of the world. Ghetto, by definition, is “asection of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area,inhabited predominantlybymembersofanethnicorotherminoritygroup, oftenasaresultofsocialoreconomicrestrictions,pressures,or hardships.” People don’t choose to create ghettos; they come about naturally. First of all, people live in those neighborhoods that they can afford. Second, people naturally choose to congregate and live together with those who think like them; this is only natural. They feel safer and more comfortable. It is a matter of mingling with people who have similar ways and views, who know, trust and understand one another, and, therefore, can make each other’s lives easier. America has many Chinatowns and Little Italys. That’s not the problem. Some suggest that immigrants don’t make a true effort to integrate in the societies that accepted them, and that, for instance, they don’t make a sincere effort to learn the ways, values, and language of the hosting countries. This is not always true. I teach English to immigrants, and I witness the great efforts those who come to class — many of them after a long day of hard work — make to learn the language. I admire them.
Is there resistance to cultural integration by the immigrants? Yes, somewhat, but more than resistance, we must acknowledge that there is a natural difficulty. All adaptation demands effort. Learning a new language is not always easy, and maybe not even a priority if you are struggling to survive. The first priority is to find work, and take care of your loved ones. And if you do all this, most likely there’s not too much time left for anything else.
Also, the impulse to preserve one’s cultures is understandable. People want to preserve their languages and customs, and want their children to marry people who share their values, and who they feel comfortable with.
But what we must acknowledge is that these are not the main causes of social unrest. The main cause is lack of opportunity and hope. This is the main cause. What is causing the violence all over the world is the marginalization of a vast number of human beings by an economic system that does not grant them opportunities to be all that they can be. They are in despair because the old promise that those who work hard will surely be blessed with upward social and economic mobility is not present in today’s world as it was in the last century. They see the immense divide between those who have a lot and those who have little, and they get discouraged by the extremely limited opportunities available to improve their lives, no matter how much they sacrifice, or how hard they work. This, all of it, is what generates the frustration that lashes out through irrational acts of violence.
People from different ethnicities and cultures congregating geographically and living together is not the problem. Inequality, concentration of wealth, and lack of paths of upward social and economic mobility is the real problem. Hopeful and motivated individuals — those who see real possibilities of a better future for themselves and their loved ones, and who see that hard work really pays off — are going to be thankful, love, and protect those who welcome and host them.
OUR DIVERSITY BUILT THIS COUNTRY
In 2014, Brenda Wood gave us all a master class on the wisdom of welcoming immigrants. Good to hear and reflect on these times of growing xenophobia.
We are human beings. These people in our borders… we are talking about human beings, not labeled pawns in a game. We are talking about our ancestors, many of them left difficult life situations to try to live better lives, like my grandparents who, one century ago, courageously and desperately left Europe to try a new life in Brazil. Compassion. Generosity. Love. Kindness. Gentleness. What do these words mean? Do these words mean anything?
DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD LIKE THEM TO DO UNTO YOU
If someday my family and I find ourselves in a dire situation in which we shall be forced to flee this country and seek asylum in another, I hope we may find generous, welcoming people to take us in and treat us with kindness.
“This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action… Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience… Every ethnic minority, in seeking its own freedom, helped strengthen the fabric of liberty in American life. Similarly, every aspect of the American economy has profited from the contributions of immigrants… The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, even in athletics and in entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background.” ~ John F. Kennedy, in his 1958 book A Nation of Immigrants
The New Colossus (excerpt from Wikipedia) — “The New Colossus” is a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887), written in 1883. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The poem talks about the millions of immigrants who came to the United States (many of them through Ellis Island at the port of New York). The “air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame” refers to New York City and Brooklyn, which were consolidated into one unit in 1898, 15 years after the poem was written. ‘The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world.” John T. Cunningham wrote that “The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the torch and the shining face, heading toward Ellis Island. However, it was [Lazarus’s poem] that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants.” The poem has entered the political realm. It was quoted in John F. Kennedy’s book A Nation of Immigrants (1958) as well as a 2010 political speech by President Obama advocating immigration policy reform.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Us and Them.
We could be them. They could be us.
We are them. They are us.
There’s no them, just us. We are all in this together.
“You and I should live as if You and I never heard of a You and an I.”
I have been following the creation of a mandala with colored sand by the monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery. They are here in my city, diligently working for an entire week at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, creating this beautiful piece that will soon disappear once they pour all the sand they have used in the water.
The lesson to be learned is the impermanence of all things. All things must pass, and therefore we should not get attached to anything.
Sometimes we dedicate countless hours to the creation of something beautiful, but we must learn to detach ourselves from our creations, and release them, let them go, aware that they will not last forever because, in the final analysis, nothing does.
For us who are parents, it is also another reminder to let our children — our most sacred creations — go, aware that they, too, just like everyone and everything else, will not last forever.
And for all of us, the lesson is to realize that no matter how much effort we may have put to create our lives, to bring about the best versions of ourselves, we still must be ready to let go, to let everything we love go, and accept that we, too, will dissolve and vanish like sand in the water.
Everything is transient, temporary, impermanent. Attachment brings about suffering. We should not get attached to anything, including our views of how life should be. This kind of attachment only brings more suffering when we realize that life did not turn out the way we idealized it.
While the monks were here, some messages came to me. One was brought by two Jehovah’s Witnesses who met me in my driveway when I was coming back home from the Museum one of these days. I told them about my experience with the monks and the mandala, and my insight on the impermanence of all things, and one of them got his Bible and read me this line by Paul, the apostle, in what is known as the second letter to the Corinthians, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This encounter brought me joy. “Great!” I said to myself, “Christianity and Buddhism meeting on a common ground! This is great!”
Other messages came to me through the Four Quartets, the poem by T. S. Eliot.
What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from…
Everything is transitioning; death follows birth, and birth follows death. Everything that begins will meet its end, and every end brings about a new beginning. (1)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, Every poem an epitaph. And any action Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start. We die with the dying: See, they depart, and we go with them. We are born with the dead: See, they return, and bring us with them…
Every being and thing we love is impermanent, and we have to learn to peacefully accept the inevitable physical separation. We have to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. We have to prepare ourselves for our physical death, accepting that no matter how important we may think we are, in the end, we, too, will leave behind a tombstone that sooner or later will become an illegible stone.
T. S. Eliot continues…
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
It seems that we go out in life looking for something without realizing that what we have been looking for has been with us all the time. We go out looking for a treasure that we have had since the beginning. We go out to learn, forgetting that we already know and that the wisdom we seek resides in us.
Through the unknown, remembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always— A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flame are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one.
~ T.S. Eliot in Little Gidding, No. 4 of Four Quartets
There are magical moments available to all of us when we walk in the woods, when we immerse ourselves in nature, when we prepare ourselves to intentionally hear the unheard and see the unseen, when we become aware at the source of the longest river of the voice of the hidden waterfall and the children in the apple-tree. (2)
The truth we seek is in the whispers heard in the silence. The truth that will bring us peace is not known, because not looked for, but heard, half-heard, in the stillness, between two waves of the sea. And in order for us to know this truth and experience this peace we have to be willing to let go of lives that have played themselves out and do not serve us anymore. We must be willing to live in a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.
P.S. – Once brushed together, the once multi-colored sand with very distinct and identifiable colors becomes one inseparable and indivisible whole.
I guess there is another lesson to be learned here: no matter how different from one another we may think we are, and no matter how much effort we may put during our existences to separate ourselves from others, isolate ourselves, and exclude others, in the end we all become the same inseparable, indistinguishable, common sand.
“At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude.”
Here are pictures of the monks pouring the sand in the water, their final rite, bringing to an end their master class on impermanence and non-attachment.
P.P.S. – My good friend Jack, again and again, reminds me to stay in the present. He made a copy of the following passage from Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, and gave it to me. “I have learned to offer no resistance to what is; I have learned to allow the present moment to be and to accept the impermanent nature of all things and conditions. Thus have I found peace.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Let us remember that the antidote to all fears is mindfulness – present moment awareness – which allows us to extract joy from the here-now.
Don’t waste your whole life chasing dreams. Don’t go through life desiring to have what you don’t have, to do what you aren’t doing, and to be who you are not, imagining that only then you will know fulfillment and happiness. Stop wanting the world to be different than what it is, and others to be different than who they are.
Tame the wanting creature inside yourself.
Find a good balance between your desires and the appreciation of who you are, what you do, and what you have. Live happily in the here-now, accepting all that is, and grateful for all the gifts that were given to you and that are at your disposal in the present moment.
Mindfulness leads to gratefulness, and gratefulness leads to happiness.
“Just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, and stand firm in that which you are.”
I said to the wanting-creature inside me: What is this river you want to cross? There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road. Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?
There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman. There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it. There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!
And there is no body, and no mind! Do you believe there is some place that will make the soul less thirsty? In that great absence you will find nothing.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body; there you have a solid place for your feet. Think about it carefully! Don’t go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, and stand firm in that which you are.
~ Kabir, 15th-century Indian mystic
Be who you really are, and do what you have been called by the Universe to do. Be mindful. Be grateful. This is how you achieve real happiness.
Gratefulness is the key that opens the gates to the kingdom of happiness.
“In moments of surprise we catch at least a glimpse of the joy to which gratefulness opens the door.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“People who have faith in life are like swimmers who entrust themselves to a rushing river. They neither abandon themselves to its current nor try to resist it. Rather, they adjust their every movement to the watercourse, use it with purpose and skill, and enjoy the adventure.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Try pausing right before and right after undertaking a new action, even something simple like putting a key in a lock to open a door. Such pauses take a brief moment, yet they have the effect of decompressing time and centering you.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“There is a wave of gratefulness because people are becoming aware how important this is and how this can change our world. It can change our world in immensely important ways, because if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it — that alone can be like waking up from a dream.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Monastic contemplatives have staked out a clearly limited area to be transformed by contemplation: the monastery. Lay contemplatives face the challenge of transforming the whole world.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“As we learn to give thanks for all of life and death, for all of this given world of ours, we find a deep joy. It is the joy of trust, the joy of faith in the faithfulness at the heart of all things. It is the joy of gratefulness in touch with the fullness of life.” ~ David Steindl-Rast in Gratefulness, The Heart Of Prayer: An Approach To Life In Fullness
“One single gift acknowledged in gratefulness has the power to dissolve the ties of our alienation.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
Gratitude is the key that unlocks the gates to the kingdom of happiness.
“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ” ~ David Steindl-Rast, Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day
“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefullness, and gratefullness is a measure of our aliveness.” ~ David Steindl-Rast, Jesus and Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings
“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Any place is sacred ground, for it can become a place of encounter with the divine Presence.” ~ David Steindl-Rast, A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness
“Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being… Wherever we may come alive, that is the area in which we are spiritual.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
As we prepare to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his commitment to service, his call for us to serve one another, especially the less fortunate among us. He said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” A powerful question, for sure. I would add, “Why are you here? What for?”
I believe that we are here to be the best that we can be and to support others so they, too, can be the best that they can be. We are here to give our unique contributions to the world and to support others so they, too, can give their unique contributions to the world. We are here to help one another, and the way that we do this is through altruistic service.
Dr. King dreamed of a just and peaceful society. He called it the Beloved Community.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. (*)
To believe that the self-serving, selfish, savage, each-man-for-himself mentality that currently prevails in world can bring about the Beloved Community that Dr. King called us to create is a baseless and unsustainable belief. In order for the Beloved Community to become a reality, we need to practice solidarity. We need to serve one another. We need to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Unfortunately, we have drifted away from the goal of bringing the Beloved Community into existence.
We need to reflect on what government is, and how it has to work in order to produce the kind of just society we want to live in. Government is a big public service agency and those who work there are public servants. In the final analysis, this agency that we, the people, have created exists to serve all of us, the public, and not to self-serve those who happen to be there, and those who get what they want through bribery and corruption. Think of the government as a service organization, one of those we give donations to, and from which we expect the completion of certain tasks and the delivery of certain goods and services. We have been giving our donations (not voluntary, but obligatory donations collected through taxes) to this agency, and we must demand it to work to create the society we want: King’s Beloved Community.
Some may say that King’s vision is impossible to accomplish, but the truth is that we have an abundance of resources to take good care of everyone. We have all the resources we need to eradicate homelessness and hunger. We have all that is necessary to support each other’s development through education and health care.
President Lincoln spoke of the kind of government we all want, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Let us hope that we can bring about a government that is really of all people, by all people, and for all people. This is the kind of government that “shall not perish from the earth.”
I encourage you to listen to Dr. King’s reminder that everybody can serve.
“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s the new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the sermon titled, “The Drum Major Instinct,” preached by Dr. King on February 4, 1968
(*) This description of the Beloved Community comes from The King Center website at http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy
The Earth is a living organism, and we, human beings, are parts of this one organism. If Earth dies, we die. The current focus on irresponsible short-term gains and incessant accumulation, which for the most part has been endangering our planet, must be substituted by socially and environmentally responsible action inspired by a long-term commitment with social justice, sustainability, and preservation. We need new mindsets, new prevailing ideas, new paradigms. We must evolve, embrace a new cosmic perspective, and act as one species whose members solve their problems practicing cooperation and solidarity. If not, we are not going to survive.
The good news is that a new consciousness is arising and with it a new idea of what a good life is. The current idea that a good life is one of self-indulgence, over-consumption, exclusivity and isolation is being replaced by the idea that a good life is a nonviolent life of connecting and supporting others on their journeys to become the best that they can be. The old idea that we need to compete, defeat, and marginalize others, in order to accumulate as much wealth and as many toys as possible has already shown its absurdity, and is being put aside. The rising paradigm is that a good life is a life of cooperation, responsible consumption, and minimum waste; a life in community, where everyone feels included and happy to be contributing crew members of Spaceship Earth.
“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable resources of air and soil. Our safety is conditional on peace and security on this spaceship. We succeed not to be annihilated due to the care, effort and love we give to our fragile vehicle.” ~ Adlai Stevenson
This is our only space vehicle. This is our home. This is our garden. This is our playground. This is Heaven, if we want it to be.
This blog was inspired by the documentary “Overview.”
I have decided to promote the vision:
1 – that this planet of ours is our Garden and our Playground, and that we are called to enjoy the beauty of the Garden and have fun in the Playground;
2 – that we are called to share our toys because the enjoyment of others enhances our own;
3 – that if we feel like doing it, we should give our contribution to make the Garden more beautiful and the Playground more enjoyable; and
4 – that we are called to understand that this is Heaven, if we want it to be!
Let me tell you a story about my dealings with meditation.
When I was a teacher at a Christian school, I used the gospel passage of Jesus calming the storm to introduce a short ‘quiet time’ for my students at the beginning of my classes. My youngest son was one of those students at the time. My objective was to calm them down, get them out of the state of agitation, and create a more focused environment in the classroom. It was a very short practice that didn’t take too long. Here’s what I did: I read that Bible passage — or another similar in essence to that one — and then asked my students to close their eyes, go to that ‘quiet place inside themselves,’ and remain in silence for a few minutes. It took a while for the kids to learn to calm down and get into the practice, but once they did, they looked forward to it. And it worked well; it created an environment more conducive for learning and teaching.
I did this for a while with great enthusiasm, certain that I was doing a good thing, and never imagining that anyone would object. But the word got out that I was doing something “different, out-of-the-ordinary, strange.” One of my students might have told her parents who, understandably, wanting only the best for their child, and not exactly knowing what was going on, decided to bring the matter to the attention of the school’s administration. It must be noted, again, that this was a Christian school, and that the reading of Bible passages, followed by traditional prayer at the beginning of classes was not only acceptable, but encouraged. But my Silent Prayer was something new, something that the community was not used to, something that, maybe, “wasn’t very Christian.”
So, to my surprise, one day I was called to the principal’s office to explain myself. I told him, and the assistant principal, how the moments of silence at the beginning of the classes created a better learning and teaching environment. I also told them that I felt that silence led to an intimacy with God, an indisputable goal of any Christian school. I made reference to Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and a passage in the Gospels — Matthew 6:6 — where Jesus, in teaching us how to pray, invites us to go to our “inner room” — “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father…” — and how I believed that this inner room Jesus referred to was not an actual room in a dwelling, but that ‘place of peace inside ourselves’ that we are able to enter when we practice to be quiet and still. I also mentioned that I believed that God communicates with us in the silence, through whispers, the ones we hear when we remain silent and still, and tune in and listen to the gentle voice within us. I made reference to the passage in 1 Kings 19:11-13, which states, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Since we were told that the voice of God is heard as gentle whispers, I told them that reducing the external and internal noise and familiarizing students with silence was a way of getting them closer to the Divine. Finally, I told them that my meditation was rooted in the Christian tradition of Centering Prayer, inspired by writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. They told me although they had heard about some of those luminaries, they weren’t familiar with Centering Prayer itself.
Well, to make a long story short, they listened, understood, but, still, told me not to do it anymore.
Considering the pressures they are exposed to, I should have informed and explained ‘quiet time’ to the administrators of the school. I recognize that I made a mistake for not having done that.
Fear has led many people to believe that the deep silence we experience during meditation should be avoided because it transports us to dangerous grounds “where evil forces operate.” I feel that this fear is perfectly understandable because in moments of silence and stillness a lot of buried emotions and unresolved situations come up, and this “emotional unloading” makes people uncomfortable and fearful.
The truth is that the practice of silent introspection is not yet widespread in Christian religious communities; few individuals have tried it, and among those who have, many have given up mainly due to fear of the unknown, or because they were told that meditation is dangerous, foreign to Christianity, and a menace to it.
I, on the other hand, know that meditation creates an intimacy with God that deepens one’s spiritual experience and, for that reason, is not a menace, but a blessing that can bring new vigor to stale religious communities.
Those who stick with the meditative practice may harvest wonderful rewards, such as tranquility, serenity, clarity, and a much closer connection, communication and communion with the Divine.
Today, I practice meditation regularly, and teach it.
I encourage people to adhere to a meditation, or a silent prayer practice. There are many to choose from, but, in the final analysis, all of them are very similar. I had a brief encounter with Transcendental Meditation in my youth, but I only began meditating with regularity when I was introduced to Centering Prayer. Now, I practice Mindfulness Meditation.
If you would like to know more about Centering Prayer, a form of meditation rooted in Christianity, please visit the Contemplative Outreach website. Here’s a video of Father Thomas Keating, the great intellectual force and advocate of meditation in the Christianity, talking about the importance of daily meditation and the positive effects of “quiet time” in schools.
If you would like to know a little bit more about the practice of meditation, I invite you to read my article, Meditation: The Basics. And, if you would like to know more about walking meditation, please visit the Silent Peace Walk website.
Be centered. Be mindful. Be amazed. Be appreciative. Be grateful. Be content. Be satisfied. Be generous. Be well. Be happy.
“Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.”
Living an authentic life, and letting go of lives that have played themselves out and do not serve us anymore is vital.
Paulo Coelho, in this beautiful passage, encourages us to do just that.
“One always has to know when a stage comes to an end. If we insist on staying longer than the necessary time, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through.
Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished.
Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden?
You can spend a long time wondering why this has happened.
You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.
But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved: your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister.
Everyone is finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.
Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away.
That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away to orphanages, sell or donate the books you have at home.
Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.
Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them.
Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood.
Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, no one else.
Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised but there is no starting date, decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.”
Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: tell yourself that what has passed will never come back.
Remember that there was a time when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.
This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.
Closing cycles. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.
Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust.
Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.”