"Be still and know," the Psalmist encouraged. "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while," invited Jesus. If you truly want to capture the Grace of a moment of authentic tranquility, they seem to be saying, "Don't just do something . . . sit there!" And in the sitting, in the stillness, in the resting place of quiet contemplation a profound sense of understanding is available . . . a flowering of spiritual sanity can occur that "sets us free" to see and hear and celebrate the immense Creativity of Stillness, the transforming Clarity of Silence, and the absolute Perfection of the Here and Now.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda captures the Grace of Slowing Down eloquently in this poem:
Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; let's stop for a second and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about . . .
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.
And quiet we kept and go He did to "rest a while" . . . and we called it Good Friday. But, as David Turner reminds us in "Christopher," "little did we know His leaving was just changing in disguise." Just a weekend trip Home to Mom & Dad, then... Shazam!!! . . . Back again, teaching, eating, laughing... inviting us to dig Infinity!... and we called it Easter.
So here we are again, Resurrection Time, 1,968 more or less years down the road, remembering how He left and how He came back . . . remembering what He taught and what He stood for . . . and, who knows, maybe even thinking about committing to what it takes to actually live in the Grace of His Good news... a Teaching so clear and spacious He told us it has the Power to "set us free." It's a poignant commentary that twenty centuries later we are still asking, "Set us free from what?" exposing the tenaciousness of the unenlightened state.
"From the epic proportions of your spiritual ignorance" (also known as "sin"), His Spirit of Truth patiently replies. "What ignorance?" we blissfully inquire. "For openers," He begins, "you apparently still don't see the connection between attaching too much significance to earth stuff and your chronic states of discontent. Your preoccupation with wealth, power, status and innumerable distractions expose your faith in the unenlightened belief that acquiring and accumulating all manner of ego comfort food ("treasure on earth") is the path to the satisfied mind."
"Remember," His Wisdom continues, "the ignorance I am speaking of has nothing to do with the physically rich or the secure life-situations you create in and of themselves. Rather, it refers to the neurotic preoccupation that drives you to create them, to try to control nature. It is ego's ambition to secure and entertain itself, trying to avoid all irritation. So you cling to your pleasures and possessions, you fear change or force change, you invest your life energies trying to create comfortable, secure nests or entertaining playgrounds and in the process you create lives of 'quiet desperation' while destroying the ecological basis of your biological existence."
Wake up! The real treasure lies buried within you. Go work in the fields that are ripe and ready to reward you with the ultimate human treasure . . . The fields of loving-kindness . . . The fields of compassionate service." As Lyte sings it, it's time to, "Bring the harvest home to your hearts."
Let's make this Easter an authentic tribute to His Resurrection and Ascension. Let's raise His Wisdom high above spiritual ignorance and affirm with our livings our awareness that happiness does not lie in the accumulation of more and more pleasant feelings, that gratifying craving does not bring us a feeling of wholeness or completeness. It simply leads to more craving and more aversion.
When we realize in our own experience that happiness comes not from reaching out but from letting go, not from seeking pleasurable experience but from opening in the moment to what is true, this transformation of understanding then frees the energy of compassion within us. Our minds no longer struggle with pushing away pain or holding onto pleasure. Liberation begins . . .
The Stone of Ignorance rolls away . . . The Love and Wisdom of the Risen Christ illuminates the darkened tomb . . .Our Resurrected Hearts sing "Free... Alleluia... free at last!"