Longtime readers of this little blog will be familiar with my abiding love of retreats of any kind. Oh, the sublime depth of noble silence, the absence of encroachment by mind-fueled noise! In the days of Great Busyness my torpedo-like life needed the balance gifted by formal retreat. Here on Kiels Mountain I relish each of these words and I smile, recognizing that my appetite for retreat has manifested a full-time “retreat lifestyle”.
This post is a smorgasbord of offerings from some favorite writers and sages.
Silence and spaciousness go together.
The immensity of silence is the immensity of the mind in which a center does not exist.
- J Krishnamurti
Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing will not understand.
Return to the root and you will find the Meaning.
Persue the Light, and you will lose its source.
There is no need to seek Truth: only stop having opinions.
- Seng-ts’an / Sosan
Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around.
- John Cage
Silent and serene, forgetting words
Bright clarity appears before you.
When you reflect it, you become vast.
Where you embody it, you are uplifted.
Solitary and shining, a river of stars,
Snow covered pines,
Clouds enveloping the peak.
In darkness it is most bright,
While hidden all the more manifest.
The crane dreams in the winter mist.
The autumn waters flow far in the distance.
Endless kalpas are totally empty,
All things completely the same.
When wonder exists in serenity,
all achievement is forgotten in illumination.
Only silence is the supreme speech,
Only illumination the universal response.
Responding without falling into achievement,
Speaking without involving listeners,
The ten thousand forms majestically glisten
And expound the dharma.
- Wanshi Shogaku
It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.
- Thomas Merton
In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me.
“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”
One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
That’s all you have to do – just abide in that stillness.
If you know how to be with that stillness without looking for anything else then that stillness is no longer just a stillness and that stillness is the Buddha Mind, it is the luminous awareness.
In that stillness you are going to discover your true nature.
The discovery of your true nature is the true liberation, is the bodhi, is the great awakening.
- Tulku Thubten Rinpoche
I teach silence
in all languages
through intensive examination of:
the starry sky,
the Sinanthropus’ jaws,
a grasshopper’s hop,
an infant’s fingernails,
- Wislawa Szymborska
… full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery.
The approach to it is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity.
If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity.
Those who seek the truth by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it.
Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.
- Huang Po
In the end it’s all very simple.
Either we give ourselves to Silence or we don’t.
This is not magic. It’s not mysterious. Sit down in a chair or on your couch and don’t make a decision when to get up, and just feel. And all of sudden it will become obvious. Your body will start to move with the feeling and you’ll just be getting up. Try it sometime. It’s interesting.
Spend a day like that; just feeling, not moving until you feel. If your mind is asking you, “is this the right feeling?” you’ll never get it. It’s like thirst. When you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty. That’s knowledge, that’s direct knowing. What would you say to somebody if they said, “how do I know when I’m thirsty?” Well, you’ll feel the flow of it. But if a mind was involved, the mind might even feel thirsty and the mind would go, “how do I know that that’s thirst? How do I know?”
But on the inside, in quietness, thirst and reaching for the cup would be just one movement. Thirst and the cup: simple.
The power of the Divine works in the silence.
People want lectures; I give them silence.
Words you can get anywhere.
In silence one can receive more
because all one’s activities become concentrated at one point.
There is only one real rhythm; in silence you hear it.
When you live to the rhythm of this silence, you become it…
- Mother Meera
Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through all the time.
This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true.
If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently.
God shows Himself everywhere, in everything – in people and in things and in nature and in events.
It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him. It’s impossible. The only thing is we don’t see it.
- Thomas Merton
Immobility and silence are not inactive.
The flower fills the space with perfume, the candle – with light.
They do nothing yet they change everything by their mere presence.
- Nisargadatta Maharaj
Above all things, love silence. Out of your silence will arise something that will draw you into deeper silence. If you practice this, inexpressible light will dawn upon you.
- St Gregory of Nyssa
Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.
- Henri J M Nouwen
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
- T S Eliot