February 2023 (Vol. XXXVI, No. 2)

Dear Friends ~ In the words of Michael Meade, sometimes I dream that we at Friends of Silence are "a small band of servants and fools who wend their way into moments and places with a carpetbag of stories, songs, poems, dances, melodies, snippets of wisdom, and spools of connective thread. With these, we seek to weave containers in which genius sparks can ignite the lantern of soul in every person there." May your winter soul lanterns be ignited by these snippets of wisdom. ~ Bob

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To see

To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.
~ Claude Monet

For the Interim Time

You are in this time of the interim
where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out.
The way forward is still concealed from you.
The old is not old enough to have died away.
The new is still too young to be born.
~ John O'Donohue from "For the Interim Time" in TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Powerlessness is our greatest treasure

Powerlessness is our greatest treasure. Don’t try to get rid of it. Everything in us wants to get rid if it. Grace is sufficient for you, but not something you can understand. To be in too big a hurry to get over our difficulties is a mistake because you don’t know how valuable they are from God’s perspective, for without them you might never be transformed as deeply and as thoroughly.
~ Thomas Keating in Contemplative Outreach News, Vol. 30, Number 2, June 2014

Death and Resurrection

We do not have within us a principle of stable existence. What we find in ourselves, on the contrary, is a principle of renewal, of return, of being lost and found again. This principle we can only understand if we experience it in ourselves; and we know its taste as the taste of rebirth: whenever we come back from a state of oblivion, of forgetfulness. This happens over and over again, to such an extent that we become accustomed to it and cease to see how important it is – and really how wonderful it is – that we should be able to come back again after having been lost.
~ J. G. Bennett’s "Death and Resurrection" in SUNDAY TALKS AT COOMBE SPRINGS

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
~ Dan Albergotti, "Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale" in THE BOATLOADS

The locus of the mystical journey

This place where the two seas meet is the locus of the mystical journey, "where the dead fish becomes alive," where spiritual teachings become a living substance that nourishes the wayfarer. When we meet the path, this happens: something becomes alive within our heart and soul. We become nourished not by spiritual texts or teaching, but by direct transmission. The spiritual journey is a way to live with this spiritual substance, to be burned by its fire, to be consumed by its love.
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee from the essay "Where the Two Seas Meet" in FRAGMENTS OF A LOVE STORY: REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE OF A MYSTIC

Sincere observation

It is a necessary part of this Work that everyone must eventually pass, to see in ourselves by sincere observation, how we cling to our negative emotions with one hand and try to free ourselves with the other. The Work inevitably leads everyone to the same places and the same experiences. We must reach the point of discerning our own helplessness, of realizing our own mechanicalness. And this, if it is not a negative experience, will bring us into a state of self-remembering. Through seeing our helplessness we attract help. For realizing our own helplessness puts us into the Third State of Consciousness where help can reach us.
~ Maurice Nicoll in PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARIES ON THE TEACHING OF GURDJIEFF AND OUSPENSKY, VOL. 1

In desiring to become

I am dead because I lack desire;
I lack desire because I think I possess;
I think I possess because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
Seeing you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing;
Seeing you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.
~ René Daumal in MOUNT ANALOGUE

Once you can accept the universe

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.
~ Einstein

Last night as I was sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
~ Antonio Machado in TIMES ALONE: SELECTED POEMS OF ANTONIO MACHADO (translated by Robert Bly)

Create a clearing

Do not try to save the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing
in the dense forest of your life
and wait there, patiently
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how
to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.

~ Martha Postlethwaite in ADDICTION AND RECOVERY

January 2023 (Vol. XXXVI, No. 1)

Dear Friends ~ The crisp unfolding of a new calendar, stiff from unuse, tacked to the waiting door. The whiff of fresh paper opening into the morning rays piercing the study window—a new year bathed in light. We are creatures who need light to see the way we do, to move boldly forward and around pitfalls. Light is linked in our awareness with the assurance of visibility and the thrill of creativity. For this we justifiably label it good and imagine Divinity crowned with it. But what if Light was beyond good? What if Light was really about clarity, recognition, being essentially seen and radically loved? Wouldn't that ignite our inner fire and forge us anew? In that crucible would we not be burnished to glow like lanterns in the dark? Dear Friends, in this new year may each of you come to see and know your belovedness more clearly, and may you shine. ~ Lindsay

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The light that sees

When you turn within you think you see a light. What you think is the light that you see in the inner world is the light that sees, not the light that can be seen. This is a different kind of light, not the kind of light that can be radiated from a source. This is the all-pervading light. Think of yourself as that light, then your aura will burn more brightly.
~ Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan; read more in AWAKENING: A SUFI EXPERIENCE

Lighting the Darkness

At the mystical heart of each of the Abrahamic faiths lie teachings about the transformational power of fire and the identification of the Holy One with light. In Judaism, the Shekinah—the indwelling feminine presence of God—took the form of a pillar of fire at night to lead the Israelites through the desert. In the Christian tradition, God revealed Himself (sometimes as Herself) to the 12th century visionary, Hildegard of Bingen, as The Living Light. In the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, Christ says that he is "the light that is above them all." In Sufi teaching the highest spiritual state is fana, the annihilation of the separate self in the fire of Divine Love, so that lover and Beloved become One Love.... May we let ourselves down into the arms of fire and allow it to melt the armor of our hearts. The excruciating fire of our loneliness and our fear of intimacy. The sweet fire of our longing for union with the Beloved.
~ Mirabai Starr from the essay "Lighting the Darkness" on THE INTERFAITH OBSERVER (digital publication)

The gift of utter clarity

But, for me, winter has an even greater gift to give. It comes when the sky is clear, the sun brilliant, the trees bare, and the first snow yet to come. It is the gift of utter clarity. In winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque with summer growth only a few months earlier and see the trees clearly singly and together, and see the ground that they are rooted in.
~ Parker Palmer in SEASONS

The girl who was no longer blind

When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw "the tree with the lights in it." It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I'm still spending that power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.
~ Annie Dillard in PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK

A worthy expression of leaning into the light

There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
~ Barry Lopez in ARCTIC DREAMS

Annunciation

Even if I don't see it again — nor ever feel it
I know it is — and that if once it hailed me
it ever does—

And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as toward a place, but it was a tilting
within myself,

as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn't — I was blinded like that — and swam
in what shone at me

only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I'd die
from being loved like that.
~ Marie Howe, "Annunciation" in THE KINGDOM OF ORDINARY TIME

Cascading Light

The canyon bleeds, then deepens
and darkens ...
A sliver of white moon in the east.
Thin Light spills into the gorge
and the river sings an ancient song.
At the edge of shadow, night:
dark stone, pine scent, water,
cascading Light.
~ David Lee in SO QUIETLY THE EARTH

Blessed are you who bear the light

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.
Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith
in stubborn hope
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.
~ Jan Richardson in CIRCLE OF GRACE

My friends, do not lose heart

My friends, do not lose heart...For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement...To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity...Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes in DO NOT LOSE HEART

Something has been set in motion

Before the restoration, it was the colors I watched, blue, red, yellow, green, pink; the architecture, the meadow, the hedges, the water. Now, what I see is light. White light. Color has been absorbed into form; Form is in the service of surprise. It is the light, the throbbing illumination, glowing on the horizon, rippling in the waters, blowing through the grasses, that touches my lips. Something has been set in motion.
~ Terry Tempest Williams in LEAP

Lean in Toward the Light

The shadows of this world will say—
There's no hope why try anyway?
But every kindness large or slight—
shifts the balance toward the Light...
When justice seems in short supply,
lean in toward the Light.
~ Carrie Newcomer from the song "Lean in Toward the Light"
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