This morning

This morning, as I was making the bed and as my head remained filled with  queries —those very queries I had promised myself to leave aside— a bird chirped on the high branch of the tree outside the window.

He seems to be telling me:

”Stop thinking. Come back to earth. Life is here. Beauty is here. They are in the quotidian, in the joy of this Spring morning and of my song, in the gestures you make as you flatten the sheets. So come back to earth and you shall find tranquility.”

Inspiration: just as I heard the bird, and a beautiful Spring morning here in Mexico. 

 

Hesychia – ἡσυχία

I have written about silence a few times in this blog, with poetry (here) and through essays such as this one on contemplative silence (here).

It is a subject that has fascinated me as I try to bring it fully into my life. Intellectualizing runs contrary to that, I know. Yet, my hyper intellect side shall I say, pushes me to inquire and seek inspiration through the words of the wise,

In the above mentioned essay, I speak about silence without effort as explained by the wise Taoist Chang Tzu. His explanation resonates fully with what I instinctively feel is contemplative or inner silence.

The Desert Fathers 

The Desert Fathers are my other inspiration —the very ones who during the first centuries of Christianity grew tired of the notion of martyrdom as a path to salvation, and of the squabbles among the various Christian communities; and who hence decided to retire to the desert. While they spent their time in contemplation, they remained very much in touch with the world, giving teachings often from the height of their columns as with St Simeon Stylites, a 5th c. Syriac Orthodox, and I admit one of my favorite wise men in history.

What many advocated, and what many in the Orthodox Church still do, is: hesychasm.

Hesychasm

It is the practice of hesychia (from the Greek ἡσυχία) which translates as quietness, stillness and silence.

As with many spiritual traditions, silence is inner silence, the one of the tranquility of the heart. In the Orthodox Church, it means quieting the mind by praying from the heart — most often “The Jesus Prayer” (for the ones who have read the soul stirring account of a Russian Monk, “The way of the pilgrim,” you will recognize it).

As I read about the practice of hesychia, I realize its immense practicality and beauty. Quieting our thoughts through prayer. The latter need not be “The Jesus Prayer,” and it can be any invocation that is kindhearted, generous and grateful. The words will help us focus our thoughts and they themselves will eventually fall into silence, as we reach inner tranquility.

This is different from the recitation of mantras where the repetition of fixed syllables stills the mind. With hesychia, words with meaning and filled with good intentions help us attain tranquility by letting light infiltrate our hearts.

Inner silence 

Inner silence is the only way I find to calm my thoughts and actions. Indeed, our thoughts are often scattered especially when we are worried. In social situations, we often speak without having pondered our words and we tend to act without fully weighting the consequences of our actions. Inner silence helps us have a full picture, gives us the ability to take a step back before speaking and acting, and to stop the turbulence that often grips our thoughts.

Of course, simple or guided meditation, watching a beautiful sunset, listening to a delicate piece of music, can also help us reach inner tranquility. Yet often, that tranquility manages to escape as soon as we are faced with a worrying thought or an uncomfortable situation.

Effortless silence amidst a noisy world

Many centuries ago, Chuang Tzu spoke about “wu wei” (無為) or non-action to reach inner tranquility. As I have mentioned previously in this blog, it does not entail idleness; rather, it is allowing things to happen effortlessly. For Chuang Tzu, silence is a natural condition.

Yet, as we become embroiled in thoughts and daily confusions, the art of silence needs to be nurtured because frankly, it would be luring ourselves to believe we can attain inner silence by just remaining still while the world twirls and whirls around us.

I find that the practice of hesychia leads to that effortless tranquility the Tao, Zen and other spiritual Masters all spoke about. It remains one “tool” among others and a beautiful one at that.

So I will end with these simple words:

“The first stage of tranquility consists in silencing the lips when the heart is excited. The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited. The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.” — St. John Climatus, Mount Sinai Monastery (6th-7th c.)

Kenza.

Layers upon layers

Layers upon layers
of thoughts and memories and emotions.
We are wrapped in layers like onions.
One by one they stack upon us from childhood,
and as adult we strive to take them off.

I want to get rid of those heavy layers.
The ones of the past that weight on my back,
that impede me from dancing freely
and laughing like a child.
It is so easy to say that the past is gone,
you need a generous environment
or emptiness, for it to be so.

Emptiness.
It seems easier as it requires no one to lean on.
Emptiness holds no expectations.
Maybe that is why I seek silence
and the poetry of the ancients.
Maybe that is why I shun the complex
and the superfluous.

There is no wisdom in my words,
just the perpetual questioning
of how to find tranquility of the heart
in a world that too often remains incomprehensible.

Kenza.

The blue cup with the butterfly

I sweep the dry leaves and the brushwood from the alley leading to the front door.
I rarely do so, as I seldom have visitors.
The night before you arrive, I know it will rain. In silence, it will wet the trees and the roof.
The scent of wet soil will greet you along with the one of the roses I planted near the entrance.
I will leave the front door ajar. It may squeak, echoing my old bones.
As for me, after setting up the tray with the blue cup with the butterfly, I will depart.
The kettle will be filled. The tea leaves are in the small white jar.
You will find tranquility here.
Stay as long as you wish.

Kenza.