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what ashes tell us about silence

our first silent retreat in bali after four years ended last sunday. it was a gathering of friends, old and new. one of the gifts of recollecting body and mind in silence and stillness is that you begin to sense it is not required of you to play any role in that space. not an easy thing to be invited to let go of as we define ourselves greatly by our roles, functions, and identities. as valid and necessary as these may be in everyday social interactions they serve no purpose when it comes to approaching stillness and silence. they in fact get in the way of a deeper sense of being and communing with others where knowing what we do in life and how we define ourselves become simply irrelevant.

for this very reason as i sit more and more silent retreats my role as a guide or teacher also dissolves. i share this with everyone when we start. i am just there with everyone at the beginning of my journey as they are at the beginning of theirs and we move together through obstacles when they arise. you would think after thirty years of practice and study you would know a few things and, would have accumulated some knowledge and wisdom. but the more time i spnd on this earth and have less time to spend on this earth i make more sense of what master eckhart says: "to be full of things is to be empty of god, to be empty of things is to be full of god."

a week of sitting in stillness and silence helps us clarify the following: facing the absolute we are nothing. this realisation allows us to renounce and let go. renouncing and letting go create inner space, and with that space the heart opens. opens to everything and stops before nothing other than before the absolute. this is compassion arising. this now helps me with understanding and making sense of what sri nasargatta says: "wisdom tells me i am nothing. love tells me i am everything. and between the two my life flows."

immersed in silence, through the inflow and outflow of the in-between we learn what simplicity is: unimpeded impermanence in movement. the tao.

at the end of our period of practice and after we had broken the silence a local priest came to offer us a balinese purification ceremony. ____________________________________

facing the pit fire

the priest chants mantras writes on a slip of paper

to reach the invisible

your words must first pass through the gate of flames then listen to the ashes

gone to silence

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