Into the Silence

I read somewhere once, that when the Universe/Divine wants you to acknowledge something it will illustrate that something to you three times, within a short period. It is clear then that the Universe/Divine wants me to engage with the ‘Silence’.

I have written here a great deal about how my recent health problems have caused a crisis in my spiritual life. As I have begun to gradually reclaim my physical equilibrium, I have been left with a sense of disconnection from all those practices that used to feed and nourish me. In many ways this has been far worse an ordeal than feeling ill; up until the last few months, when major events have been moving through my life, my spiritual beliefs and practices have been an enormous support. The change has rather thrown me but this week has seen the first real turn around since the beginning of the year, when the fitting of the Implanon implant began a downward spiral in my physical and emotional well-being.

The first gentle prod from the Universe/Divine came in the form of a DVD that a friend had recorded and which I unexpectedly received a copy of. It was a short guided meditation and talk. At one point in the meditation, my friend guides the listener to open to the ‘Source, deep within’, to ‘rest in this awareness of being’ feeling ‘at one with the source of all life’. This part of the meditation triggered a little jolt of recognition inside my head. In my desperate attempt to regain the connection to the Divine that I felt I had lost since being poorly, I suddenly realised that I had been trying to achieve this reconnection in a rather left brain way. I had been frantically trying to define my beliefs in an effort to reclaim them. All the faces that I had cloaked the Divine with – which had given me such inspiration for so long – had become distant and unfamiliar to me and on trying to reconnect with the ‘faces’, I had forgotten to open to and listen to that Source.

Amidst the joy of discovering the Divine in the material, I have drifted away from that transcendent Source. As a Pagan, for me the Divine is perceived as immanent in the Universe; I love this notion and still feel its truth and power when I gaze around me at life. However, it has struck me this week that in championing this perception of the Divine, I have shied away from engaging with the purely transcendent. I think this stems a great deal from my negative experiences as a Christian, the transcendent becoming associated with the religion I had left behind. Engaging so full-heartedly with immanence was incredibly healing for me and yet now I realise that I have deprived myself of a fuller experience of the Divine by embracing one and rejecting the other.

In listening to my friend’s DVD, hearing him speak of us connecting and honouring both the beauty and spiritual power of the material world and that of transcendent Source, made me realise that I had ignored the possibility that the Divine can be reached via both. This might seem obvious to others but somehow I have denied one in favour of the other and the imbalance has shown itself at this point because I have been struggling so with my own  body.

The DVD triggered one of those eureka moments; I instantly knew that what I needed to do for myself at this moment in my spiritual journey was connect and open to the transcendent Source; to not try to shape it, or personify it, or define it, merely to open to it, go into the peace and silence and simply listen. I am a very visual person and my meditating experiences tend to reflect this but I knew suddenly that the visual was not what my soul was craving at the moment; it was seeking a silent, peaceful ‘nothingness’ or ‘beingness’. This realisation brought with it an excited ‘yes!’ feeling, as if something in me had been patiently waiting for me to make this discovery and was now very happy that I had. And so, I made plans to spend a few minutes every day in the ‘Silence’.

As if I needed reminding, I came home on Friday to catch Laurie most of the way through watching a programme on the BBC called ‘The Big Silence’. He rewound it on the freeview box and told me to watch it while he cooked dinner. It was the last part in a small series where a group of people were taken on a Christian retreat and challenged to bring an engagement with the ‘Silence’ into their everyday lives! Only a couple were Christians but most found the experience extremely inspiring. It struck me that entering the silence and listening, regardless of what faith or beliefs we hold, even if we hold none at all, can link us all beyond dogma, beyond our theological differences. And yes, here was my second prod from the Universe!

The third came at my Monday Yoga class where our final relaxation meditation – which usually is a guided visualisation – this week focused on moving into the peace and stillness. Alright, alright, I hear you, I hear you!!!

Honouring the physical – including the more challenging stuff such as illness, loss, pain and death – as sacred, is such an important part of my spiritual understanding. But in finding myself feeling so unwell, I felt challenged on how I might continue to stay present and happy in those difficult moments. It seems to me that it requires a balance between accepting and experiencing where we are in the cycle of our lives; living it and honouring it whilst also being able to stand outside it in the peace and stillness, to know that although we might be ill, we are not the illness. Our wholeness, our deeper self, is beyond the cycle and yet experiences it, enfolds it within its being, enriches itself with the experiences. I am again drawn back to the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes quoted here recently:

…the indestructibly soul-spirit. We know the soul-spirit can be injured, even maimed, but it is very nearly impossible to kill. You can dent the soul and bend it. You can hurt it and scar it. You can leave the marks of illness upon it and the scorch marks of fear. But it does not die…

This week I have felt that sense of eternal ‘beingness/nothingness’ when I have entered the silence and opened to its peace. At those moments all appears absolutely as it should be.

I feel a shift and sense that this simple daily practice is exactly what I need at present. As the week has passed, I have felt my sense of well-being improve; I feel more connected to that Source and don’t feel any need to define it or myself for now. As my hormones are being worked on and balanced by the herbs I am taking, I also feel that a deeper imbalance is now being corrected in my spiritual life too. Both of these things are giving me the opportunity to embrace a greater wholeness in my being. And so I honour the paradox that as I surrender to the silence, I move back into life.

You Whom Care in Prison Keeps, and Sickness Doth Suppress

In one of  earth’s tranquil haunts a man may lay his head on her green pillow…There is a hand on the hot forehead. He meets death with the absence of morbidity – almost amounting to indifference – which you find in the gay short-lived citizens of wood and meadow. Death is no longer either the supreme disaster or the supreme desire, but an incident – the swinging back of the gate on the skyline. He begins to link himself with the Beauty that lies in and beyond the beauty of earth, like light in a flower; an intuition begins to dawn on him that this Beauty, or Love, is not only above all things, but in them, permeating them; that he and the very germ of disease that destroys his body abide in it as inevitably as the world abides in the invisible air. When each breath is drawn in this eternal atmosphere, now and forever are one; today and in a million years, here and beyond the uttermost star, we are in the heart of God. 

Mary Webb –  The Spring of Joy