It’s afternoon. We need to be quiet
for a while. Speaking would be
such an orchard to walk in,
if we could do it without alphabet and sounds.
I’m on a course at the moment. It’s a good course, full of deep insights and spectacular sunrises of the Self. But the problem is, the facilitator Never. Stops. Talking. Each ‘a-ha!’ from a participant is met with another story of first- or second-hand knowledge, a quote, a book reading. Another layer of words is dusted over the insight, which struggles to come out into the light of day like a tender new seedling being smothered with an unnecessary sprinkling of earth by an over-enthusiastic gardener.
The backdrop to who we are is Silence. If this sounds strange, there’s a wonderful little exercise, called ‘Who am I?’ It goes like this: grab a piece of paper (you could do it now) and ask yourself, Who am I? Then list down the page all your answers when you ask yourself this question. I’m a mother/father/brother/sister/family member. I’m a manager/leader/employee of X company. I’m a friend, a jazz enthusiast, an MBA graduate. A pet owner.
I am… The list is endless.
We tend to pile on these definitions of ourselves, one after another, making up our idea about who we are – our identity. Over time, these definitions become sedimented into reality, and we forget that they are definitions and believe that these things are who we truly are. But are they really? Or are they just ideas about ourselves, images that we’re no longer conscious of, like a programme running in the background of which we’re only faintly aware from time to time? If you take a step back from your list, you’ll notice that all these labels we ascribe to ourselves are a result of our thinking. As the spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, says, we literally think ourselves into existence, moment to moment. Our identity is actually something that exists only when we’re thinking about it.
None of this is a problem in itself, of course. We go through life with our definitions of ourselves intact, put them up on our LinkedIn profiles, and get on with our lives. In fact, the labels of our identity help us to navigate our lives; it would be difficult to manoeuvre without them. But who are we behind all our labels? What is actually there when we look for it? And what we notice is that behind all our thoughts about ourselves is simply awareness, the vast, empty space of Silence, uncast into the moulds of our identities. Pure potentiality that we can form into the experience of our lives.
This might sound rather philosophical, but in fact it’s very much grounded in the realities of our day-to-day lives. There is endless creativity available here, brought into being by our personal choice. Do we want to walk these well-trodden paths of our histories, living largely on autopilot according to the definitions we’ve given ourselves, or do we want to enjoy some fresh scenery, a burst of colour, novel thought, surprising in its originality? Accessing this requires us to stop along the path and notice where we’ve become habitual about defining ourselves, even that we define ourselves this way, and then listening beyond those definitions to the Silence and what it has to say from beyond the beaten track.
In the stillness that lies beyond our words there is rich and endless inspiration, wisdom, insight and intuition. The quiet delivers the opportunity for Silence to speak.
Leave some gaps between the words of your daily life to allow it to emerge.