Too Much Clutter

My friend emailed me about her recent trip to Iran.  She said she chanced upon a young lady there, who was all covered up in a chador (a black mantle.)  The young lady explained that there is Energy in all of us. By keeping herself shielded, she retains the purity of that Energy, so it is not unnecessarily scattered out.

I wish I could be attuned with my spirituality like that. Yesterday, I attended a talk by a Christian Community priest, Hartmut Borries, on the call for self-transformation.  He said that today, our inner space is cluttered. Humanity has been successful in strengthening our lower and needy nature, the nature that enjoys in consuming.  At its expense, we have weakened our Higher Being, making the “I” within us fall asleep.

In ancient times, human beings lived out their lives in tune with the spiritual world.  They had their rituals.  They called on the Gods. They saw the Divine in all that they did. They lived a life engaged in spiritual simplicity, having time for quiet, rest and reflection. It was in their silence that they found God, the Divine, the spiritual.

Our modern world distracts us with much noise, activity and materialism.  The other day, while I was sipping my coffee at Starbucks, I decided to be “in the moment” and savor not just my coffee but take in the people around me.  And I saw how we are all half-asleep. Every solitary being in the cafe was lost to his mobile phone, his laptop, or his thoughts.

We would like to be quiet, but our restlessness will not allow it. Hence we believe that for us there can be no peace except in a life filled up with movement and activity, with speech, news, communication, recreation, and distraction. We seek the meaning of our life in activity for its own sake. -Thomas Merton

We seemingly seek out noise.  Even in our inner sanctums, our homes, in the car, our bedrooms, we switch on our TV sets, flick on our Ipods, lug our phones, or inhabit our thoughts with loud voices of Did-Not’s and To-Do’s, and we do this everywhere we go.  Try this experiment.  The next time you sit inside your car, observe the people you pass.  You will be surprised to see that human beings numb themselves with chatter.  You will see a third of the people on the phone or clicking their phones, a third lost in thought as their minds wander aimlessly, and another third listening to their Ipods or to the blaring “Love Radio.” Lost from everyday is time to simply abide peacefully with ourselves. We relinquish this moment.  Yet when we shut out the racket to spend quiet time with ourselves, we can often have an intimate connection with the divine.

Moments of solitude allow us to consider the meaning of life itself. All of the world religions agree upon the same thing. You connect with the sacred when you find solitude. As one columnist Anna Quindlen aptly stated: “the static in the collective national psyche threatens to drown out the small voices of cosmic questioning or contentment.

Aside from numbing ourselves with noise, we seemingly go through the day in a semi-awake state, as if sleepwalking.  We go through life on the automatic, going through our daily motions without any deliberateness. When we live in this way, our life goes by without us. Deliberately living, according to Kabat-Zinn, is the “direct opposite of taking life for granted.” For example, I have gone from one place to another, sometimes forgetting how I got there.  If I had only walked fully in the experience, I would have found the air exhilarating, be thrilled by the stars, or be elated by seeing a bird pecking at the grain of rice. Just imagine the rewards of being fully aware to experience all of life’s nuances.  How does one sense the divine if she does not even notice see the spectacular show nature performs for her everyday?  As Deepak Chopra said: If you can be self-aware you are spiritual.

Our life is made of moments.   Yet, we rarely focus on the present moment.  We spend most, if not all of our time thinking about the past or anticipating the future.  Our preoccupation with what we will do in the future, keeps us from appreciating all that this moment has to offer.  But the reality is, this moment is all that we really have to work with. Even Oogway from Kung Fu Panda knows this truth.  He said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the Present.” (And that’s coming from a Turtle.)

We must always ensure that there is time and space within our lives to simply be. The gift of silence is accessible to each of us and costs us nothing. It can be as simple as finding serenity from watching the flicker of a candle.  It can be a calming moment at the chapel. It can be a ten-minute meditation.  It can even be a mindful moment of walking from your workplace to the coffee shop. We all know that we need and sometimes crave the sanctuary of stillness and silence.  But we do have the ability to find some quiet and introspection amidst the noise and clutter that encroach our public and inner spaces.  We must avoid the trap of the constant chatter that will carry us off to living a reduced life…to living half a life.  Finding out who we are and our place in the scheme of things, having a glimpse of our innate potential to be Kings and Queens, remembering our connection to all of existence- these may be the gift of silence.

The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first;

Be not discouraged– keep on– there are divine things, well envelop’d;

I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Walt Whitman

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