*Brian Wilcox. 'Silence among the Smokies (no. 2)'. Flickr
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Written on the eleventh day of silent retreat at Raven's Rest hermitage, in the Great Smoky Mountains, outside Hot Springs, North Carolina.
A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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A visitor to the gathering, who was writing an article on spirituality in America for the newspaper of a nearby city, inquired of the sage.
"There are many spiritual paths..."
The sage, unlike his usual way of waiting for questioners to finish a question, interrupted and spoke, bluntly, "There are not ~ he hesitated, as though to make his point stronger, and focused his eyes on the writer ~ many spiritual paths."
Thrown off balance, the writer paused, then asked, "Then, how many?"
Having regained her composure, and her usual sense of being in charge, "So, your way is the only way?"
"No. The Way is."
"And what's this way? I mean, where does this path begin and end?"
"Head to heart."
"That sounds easy and quick."
Again, unlike the sages usual calmness, another respose of sternness, "Obviously, you've never made the trip."
The writer remained silent, giving thought to what the sage said, for it threw her off-balance once more. She was wondering, by now, if she'd made a mistake coming to meet the sage. She wasn't used to losing control in an interview, and she felt the sage had her in his grasp, not as usual, when she had others in her grasp.
Another present inquired, seeing the writer remained speechless, "Would you describe this journey from the head to the heart?"
"The most challenging and most joyous adventure you could ever have."
The writer inquired, having recovered her composure somewhat, but still confused on where the sharing was going, and wanting to know, "Can you share more?" She spoke this with a feeling of humbleness that surprised her, and she could see the shift in how the sage looked at her, more kindly, and his words felt softer to her hearing.
"Yes, gladly. Everyone has visits to the heart. That's like heaven, paradise, or nirvana right now. Yet, we can't tolerate such joy, so we return to the head, we think ourselves back into our personal and collective drama. We're like butterflies rushing back into the cocoon, unable to enjoy the beauty of freedom in the open sky. In fact, much of what we hear encourages us to live in our sweaty cocoons. Fear spreads fear."
"So, how do we finally stay there? I mean like a butterfly in the open sky, as you say."
"We stay there after many, many visits. The whole journey is to condition us to our natural beingness, to Being Itself, nothing added or subtracted. Then, we find that truly we together are the heart, the open sky, we are the presence we have been looking for and, at the same time, running from."
"Does this mean," asked someone from the back, "that we're what many call God?"
"We're not going there," said the sage, again sternly. Then, proceeding more calmly, "The theists and atheists talk on and on about God this and God that. Only God can show you God, so, silence is the best response to talk about God. Then, one will not need a reply to that question and not wish to talk much about God. When God shows you God, the question will be swallowed inside the silence of the heart."
"So, back to the heart," arose a voice from the left of the sage, "how do we stay in the heart?"
"I'll adapt from one Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, in his analogy about heaven. Persons are being taken on a bus to heaven, they're very excited about their destination. They've waited a long time. They get off at the gate of heaven and walk into heaven. They're celebrating, feeling real good about getting to heaven. They're overwhelmed by the beauty, more so than they even imagined, heard about from their scriptures, and sang about in their hymns. It's a celestial paradise and with a lovely grass unlike anything on Earth, a green beyond any green the mind could imagine. Just as they begin enjoying this incomparable bliss, they begin hurting in the feet, their eyes are in pain, in fact, their whole bodies are hurting more and more. The pain becomes unbearable, and they all run back into the bus, relieved to be back out of heaven."
"What's this teaching us?"
"The same thing Buddhists teach. We cannot enjoy living in the heart, until we are prepared to do so. So, it takes us all time, some of us shorter, some longer, to tolerate heaven. Heaven, until then, is too wonderful for us. It's like someone finally loving someone who sought love all his or her life and complained of not having it, then, when he or she got it, pushing it away. We could even say heaven, or the heart, is love."
"So, due to our unpreparedness, we run back into the head and our personal and collective stories?"
"Yes, and Buddhists call this samsara, and the word "hell" indicates it, also. All the unnecessary emotional suffering in the world arises from living in our personal and collective stories. Then, all the violence is our acting that out on others. All wars arise from war inside us, from our fantasies. Hell, or samsara, includes having your own story, your personal fantasy, excluding all other stories. In the heart there's only one story, or we could say, no story at all, only Life, with the joy of love."
"So, we need to drop the stories?"
"You can try. They will keep coming back. You see this happening in meditation. Then, one day, the stories will no longer stick. They will pop up and just dissolve, for they are finding no place for grounding. You will, also, see this in meditation."
"So, what helps us be prepared to live in the heart, what I call in God?"
"Just keep visiting. Keep visiting. The heart prepares us to live in the heart, or we could say, God prepares us to remain in Love with God."
"What's that like?," asked the writer, now softened toward the sage and truly interested in exploring his teaching for her own benefit, having forgotten she had come to get information for an article.
"No one can tell."
"Can you give a hint?"
"Yes, that's all I do, and all I can do. ... So, I leave you all, this evening, with the following verse...
Robins sing in swaying branches
*Brian Wilcox. 'Silent Presence'. Flickr
*(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered from major booksellers online, including the publisher 1stBooks.