Part of a journey across a desert is to make inner space and slow down in order to get a perspective on all the energies, including the dark and shadow ones, that fill the air waves and the hubbub of culture all around us. 

“Be one with Pachamama” Photo by Caleb Hernandez Belmonte on Unsplash

As Barbara Holmes puts it, citing a tradition African wisdom saying, “the times are urgent; let us slow down.” 

She cites Bayo Akomolafe from his essay, “A Slower Urgency: We Will Dance with Mountains.” 

The idea of slowing down is not about getting answers, it is about questioning our questions.  It is about staying in the places that are haunted.*

It is about being-with our deepest selves therefore, and the depths of our ancestors, their pain as well as their promises and accomplishments. 

From there, something new might come forth, just as Meister Eckhart promised when he told us about his dream and that,

though a man, I dreamt I was pregnant, pregnant with nothingness and out of this nothingness God was born.

Dance of the silent heavens: an uprush of Aurora Borealis greets a falling meteor in Jeris, Finland. Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

In this season of celebrating God-birth and the miracle of Light, it is important to remember to listen for the silence and taste the nothingness. 

After all, we are told by Wisdom Scriptures read on Christmas eve, that it was in the middle of the night and in the middle of silence that “the great warrior leapt out of the heavens” down to earth to assist humanity in trouble.

Indigenous Hawaiian elder Nana Veary puts it this way:

Silence means no repetitions, no affirmations, no denials, only a conscious acknowledgement of God’s allness. In the silence, one is beyond words and thoughts.

*Barbara Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (Albuquerque, NM: 2021), p. 39.

See Matthew Fox, “How all creatures experience the divine repose,” in Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 380-387. 

And Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 357.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Lonely desert trek. Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Have you learned to question your questions?  And stay in the places that are haunted?  To let go and to let be?  To enter a silence beyond words and thoughts?  Can we bring that to the problems of our day?

Recommended Reading

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  

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9 thoughts on “Silence Along the Desert Journey”

  1. Avatar

    Pema Chodron, the Buddist nun, in her book, Welcoming the Unwelcome, also speaks of this Divine Repose, this being at rest in silence, clearing the emotions, thoughts and imaginations within our heart and mind, in order to discover a deeper response, rather than a shallow reaction.

    Often, when something unwelcoming happens in our life experience, as humans we begin to react first from the ways our emotions get stirred up, by this something that has or is happening. These emotions then begin to infiltrate our thoughts as we try to make sense out of what we are experiencing. Then we attach meanings to all of this with our imaginations, the stories we create in reaction to these unwelcoming happenings.

    There is a Buddhist practice however, that helps us to welcome these unwelcoming human reactions, that leads us into being at rest, a way of entering into a stance of Divine Repose, so that we can welcome these unwelcome feelings, thoughts and imaginations and access the deeper response of our Divine nature.

    This practice is to simply let go of our attachments of labelling and catagorizing our emotions, our thoughts, and our imaginations. When an unwelcome something happens or is happening, you simply notice and observe that you are feeling or thinking. So for example, something unwelcome happens, then you choose to welcome it be simply acknowledging it as Feeling, or Thinking. You simply become aware in the moment, in an observational way, that you are simply Feeling or Thinking. You don’t label it, you don’t allow this energy in motion, which feelings and thoughts are, to run away with your imagination. You simply with awareness, observe that you are Feeling, or Thinking… and you just acknowledge this to yourself. This is a way of slowing or cooling this energy in motion down.

    This isn’t about oppressing or suppressing one’s feelings, thoughts, or imagination, but rather its about detaching our labeling and categorizing, as to what we imagine they mean. It’s about welcoming this unwelcoming energy in motion, simply being aware and acknowledging it, through observation of its presence and stating what just is, which is “I am feeling, or I am thinking, period.” In practicing this, we slow and cool down this energy in motion, we learn to welcome the unwelcome, and as a result we are able to access the wisdom of a deeper response from our Divine nature, as apposed to our reactive human nature.

    As humans we have become really good at labeling and categorizing feelings and thoughts in imaginative ways, such as good or bad, right or wrong, dark or light, positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant and then we either want to hold onto them or dump them or avoid them all together. But in reality, feelings, thoughts, and the imagination is simply energy in motion. Practicing and learning to detach from these ways of labeling and categorizing our feelings, thoughts and imaginations, allows us to enter into the welcoming stance of Divine Repose in which we can then access the deeper wisdom of responding rather than reacting to all of this energy in motion.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Jeanette. This practice is so very helpful and reminds me of something a mentor of mine in the 12 step program encouraged. He suggested that when we find ourselves acting thinking or feeling something that we have been wanting and trying to avoid in our quest for positive change, that rather than judging ourselves or letting ourselves become discouraged, that we simply laugh at ourselves and tell ourselves “Oops, there I go again.” Welcome the unwelcome. I am grateful for this encouragement and for the Buddhist practice you shared Jeanette. Thanks again, Maggie Mosteller, Montrose, Alabama

    2. Avatar

      Thank you for that! For me, the Buddhists help me put into practice the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was only around for 3 years-not long enough to show us the how-the beatitudes sum up his teaching, and Buddhism gives us a way to actually prepare our minds and hearts to put it into practice. Also helpful is Tara Brach’s RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) and The Welcoming Prayer by Thomas Keating. I need all of the above to help me with afflictive emotions. It’s so good to have a toolbox when you need it!

  2. Avatar

    On my long spiritual journey, I have always been attracted to the universal contemplative spiritual tradition as exemplified and written about throughout human history by the indigenous, mystics, and saints up to the present time with more contemporary contemplatives… A few years ago, I became aware of and a member of Fr. Thomas Keating’s
    Contemplative Outreach with support for daily Centering Prayer that leads to deeper Contemplative Prayer. Related to today’s universal contemplative meditation on Silence on our spiritual journeys, the Christian tradition’s contemplative meaning of contemplative prayer is “resting in God” and “God’s first language is SILENCE”… Creation Spirituality is also very w(h)olistic and includes the contemplative spiritual tradition….

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Damian, when it comes to contemplative prayer, in contrast what Fr. Keating is doing, I would point you to Matthew’s book, PRAYER: A RADICAL RESPONSE TO LIFE. There is a place for both, and both need a place in our lives!

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