Where there is silence, one finds the anchor of the Universe – Tao Te Ching
The third installation of this peaceful spirit warrior trilogy involves translating it, applying it to life today. How can what was revealed in that dark, silent night of spiritual awakening be translated to the light of today?
It is my wish that these thoughts may support and encourage you, in some small way, as you go about your day.
The peaceful warrior wakes up each day open to Inspiration. In the world of the warrior, nothing is ever wasted. No open door ignored; no opportunity is wasted; no challenge left unaddressed. The peaceful warrior anticipates and accepts the everyday, ordinary miracles that are the pathway to peace. Silence is the means – crafting a way through the clutter and embracing that which is harmonious.
Be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10
Speak only when your words are more beautiful than the silence – Arabic Proverb
Silence isn’t empty. It’s full of answers – Buddhist Teaching
The best answer to anger is silence – Marcus Aurelius
Silence is a source of great strength – Lao Tzu
Let’s translate it using an excerpt from An Elegant Mind’s Handbook:
If you cannot be silent, you cannot listen.
If you cannot listen, you cannot be a true parent, or lover, or friend.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot be calm.
If you cannot be calm, you are at the whim of distraction.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot grow.
If you cannot grow, you cannot grow wise.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot learn.
If you cannot learn, you cannot achieve mastery.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot hear the voice of inspiration.
If you cannot hear the voice of inspiration, you cannot dream.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot be silenced.
If you cannot be silenced, you will always be afraid.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot find peace.
And regretfully, peace can never find you.
Silence is the ultimate creative act. It is the alpha of all manifestation as well as its omega.
In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to be quiet. In silence, we can gain clarity and think. The COVID-19 virus is a threat to our physical body. We who have been sleepwalking through life, living in a Dreamer’s Xanadu where modern medicine, our hero, rushes in to save us when we are sick. In this version of paradise, we, the people, have more power than Mother Nature. We dictate OUR terms. What we are experiencing is Mother Nature’s elegant response.
Mother Nature sounds Her call.
Sirens wail, and cities fall,
And the people say,
“Who will help us in our time of need?
As we justify our savage greed?
Who will be there when we’re broken…
on our knees?”
‘Cause it won’t matter what we say,
or how much gold we give away if the
sun doesn’t rise.
If the sun doesn’t rise on another day.
By now I may have lost you. Perhaps you are thinking…this is way too bleak for me, I’ve had enough of that…
The truth is that sometimes reality sucks. However, the old saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going, is reality as well.
Who will you be after you have run the COVID-19 gauntlet?
This is where the nature of nature, the vital force of the Universe, inspires us to action.
An open mind gains us access to the Wellspring of Inspiration and the field of possibilities, as in Quantum Physics. Scientists are marvelously creative people!
Translation: Imagine you have lived deep in a forest all of your life and have never seen a door. This word would not mean anything to you. You could not create something you cannot imagine. You wouldn’t even know what questions to ask to begin to find it, because in your world, it doesn’t exist. Before you can see what is behind an open door you first must understand what a door is.
Example: Because of COVID-19, the world is morphing before our eyes. Many of the things we took for granted will no longer be useful in this new realm.
Opening your mind is a creative act…
One way I have been using my creativity is to remain open to whatever arises from the ashes of the old world. Like clay in the hand of a potter, we must stay open to novel ideas. Without it, this novel virus will become our undoing.
I like to consider the way A Course In Miracles defines innocence. It means simply admitting that you don’t know the true purpose of anything. It is the brilliance of awe and the exception of wonder. It is like a young child who becomes enchanted with his or her own toes…
As I envision it, innocence is receptivity. It is the essence of Flow, of artistry. It is the artist’s most delightful tool – because innocence is the all-access pass that allows each artist to enter the hallowed hallways where silence reigns…where everything…and everyone becomes sacred…because it is always new. Like a wide-eyed traveler, in this manner, we are always arriving. Our eyes cannot drink its sights and sounds and sensations in fast enough! We are delighted by the ecstasies of beauty.
Does losing your innocence mean losing touch with the child within?
How can you write a new song if you feel every note and melody combination has already been used?
Translation: Innocence is complete, utter, open-mouthed awe.
Example: COVID-19 has brought with it the end of an era. It is a world in which something both invasive and pervasive has gone as viral as a video on the internet. The correlation between the two is clear. It is clear that we cannot stop it anymore than we can stop access to the internet.
What I have applied in this past month is acceptance of the reality of our situation. It involves the Stoic idea of heroic acceptance of what is happening, because it is only through accepting what is, the facts, that we can understand it and act in our best interests. This is what I am seeing as a tactical, scientific approach to this pandemic – we must take a step back, understand the nature of the threat as best we can, and act with as much focused intention and authority as possible. Established protocols created in the wake of similar incidents must be utilized as a benchmark, and our global authorities (the CDC and the WHO) must be given the authority to act on our behalf.
One thing is clear, we are learning as we go. The ability of this contagion to mutate and adapt calls for extreme creativity on the part of our scientific community.
Scientists are some of the most creative people in the world!
Have you ever watched a child as he or she plays? Everything is entered into with passion and intensity. Children are masters of flow – they give themselves to their creation with their whole heart and spirit.
One of the most compelling quests of our time involves learning to play all over again as an adult. I call it Serious Play.
However, it is clear that our creativity has been systematically trained out of us. First, by our caregivers who did not believe that artistry is a way to make a living. Second, by our educational system which values compliance and dogma over artistry. Third, by conventional beliefs that create victims in need of mercy.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” — Albert Einstein
We overvalue and cultivate convergent thinking (to color within the lines, think within the box) while we devalue the divergent thinking that allowed Einstein to discover the Theory of Relativity or man to go to the moon and allows thinking space for novel approaches to novel viruses. To the extreme, neither functions well. Both are necessary for balance.
Translation: We cannot think outside the box if we believe the box is all there is. If you believe the best is behind you, you may be right, but that doesn’t make it True.
Example: In the wake of a global pandemic, what will become the “new normal?” This is a paradox in itself because normal isn’t new, it’s a norm. The new normal is such an enormous thought that we automatically try to compartmentalize it – like assigning meaning to a company of stars. Our label does not add anything to it or alter its relation to us…but it does change ours to “it.”
Every time a beloved dies, our world decomposes and recomposes from its ashes. This “same difference” is the essence of change. Essential change embraces the paradox of different – there is no such thing in reality.
No-one or no-thing can shield us from our coming of age. It is time to embrace a world in which paradox becomes the embrace. Who will I be on the other side of my illusions? What will save me?
What can I do?
Embrace this invitation to expansion. Don’t resist assimilation into the unknown. And yes, it does involve discomfort and loss. The futility of resisting that embrace is being realized now in our acute and collective suffering.
The Quest remains. Will you continue to compose the present (and your future) from the ashes of the past?
My response to the Quest? Make kindness, on every level I can possibly imagine, the new normal.
Could this be the best time of my life?
Its Inspiration gleaming like a sunbeam in the light?
What carries me along? To what do I belong?
And if it was, how could I tell this story in a song?
I wander on alone
Still searching for my home
Longing to be longed for
Eternally I roam
To what end am I racing?
Is there something that I’m chasing?
A vision of a friend that I should be embracing?
In the face of chaos, what does harmony look like? How do the components of an elegant life integrate to create flexibility, flow, and resiliency?
Translation: We must embrace our creativity, and expand our vision, to see an end to this current crisis. Otherwise, we will always be a victim of its consequences.
Example: In the face of adversity…when insanity raises its ugly head…I deliberately create space and retreat to my inner Sanctuary. It is my creative space, where the part of me I call my Constant Traveler writes. Together, in silence, we recompose…and compose our response.
You see, the egoic part of me, the part that Jung describes as the persona, gets scared. It’s human nature to acknowledge a threat in this manner. It is a natural survival instinct. When it is aroused, adrenaline flows.
Your inner Sanctuary, your creative space where the most compassionate and honorable part of you speaks, can become your retreat. I suggest spending as much time there as possible.
Pride may goeth before a fall, but a peaceful warrior knows that humility comes after. Humility is found on the other side of catastrophe. Humility tempers the temper as it neutralizes the ego.
A humble spirit works from the understanding that we are all in this together. Of myself, I can accomplish nothing of value. I will never get anywhere worthwhile without you.
Life is relationship. All that we think, perceive, do…is in response to something else, in relation to our observances of it.
Humanity has been scared awake. Now we know that Mother Nature is in control. Humanity is not the boss, but, if we are wise, humility can rule.
We are not in control of events, but we do have a choice – do we react without considering the consequences, or do we take the time to craft an elegant response?
Those who believe in enemies will always find them.
Translation: Humility is accepting the unacceptable. The enemy is within.
Example: People have been reacting to the COVID-19 virus with fear. For some people that means stocking up on ammunition and taking up arms. Who, or what will they be fighting? A virus?
You cannot fight a dinosaur. Dinosaurs exist only in the mind.
A creative response involves vision, not reaction.
We feel we have been strong-armed into feeling things we have spent a lifetime denying. Denial of our deep sadness is a symptom of synergetic imbalance.
We are being forced to admit that we have created lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau posited, in which we expend so much energy running from those things we fear that we have, quite literally, run ourselves off of our feet. We are succumbing to the stress and pressure, or stressures of these uncertain times.
Our primal reactions – fear, aggression, and defensiveness overwhelm our bodies. In this weakened state, we become the victims of every level of sickness. Sleep becomes challenging, further depleting our already taxed adrenal and immune responses. This virus is self-serving, but it also serves as a symbol of how the virus of fear can overwhelm a vulnerable host.
The counter-measure to feeling vulnerable to external sources is embracing vulnerability within, creating an inner Sanctuary where it’s alright to shed the tears of sorrow, loss, and misery.
It is important, in this new age, to understand the elegant constructs of creativity. Creativity must flow, certainly, but it thrives on the structure of its own creation.
Consider the structure of music – the primary beat that is established through drum and bass to compose the foundation for a song. It flows through the inspired drummer and bassist. Consider the vitality and beauty of the harmonious musical notes that flow through the inspired pianist or guitarist. Consider the elegant silence present between the notes. Each element is vital to the song’s existence.
Translation: Humans survive, and thrive, with a plan. We must create a plan to save as many lives as possible, but also to save what remains of our own lives, those parts that are essential, valuable, and worth keeping.
Example: I have been utilizing what I call the 5P’s of Effective Action: Proper planning prevents poor performance. With every life crisis, I have been fine-tuning my plan. It is composed of the life-promoting elements that care for my mind, body, and spirit. Each time something unexpected and challenging arises (which it inevitably does) I enact the plan. It isn’t complete, but it works much better than starting from scratch.
I believe it is better to prepare for a threat than to try to make up ground once the threat is introduced. COVID-19 has catapulted humanity into a new frontier, and, like ants in a nest that’s been stirred with a stick, we are scrambling to mitigate the damage.
If you haven’t formulated a plan that you can enact during the next crisis in your life, I invite you to do so. Now is always the perfect time to begin working on caring for your mind, body, and spirit.
Inspiration is all around us, but we must be open to it. Humanity has survived and thrived through eons by recognizing the strengths inherent in our connection to others and in shared community resources. As we brainstorm, we feed each other with new ideas. This creates a synergy (where one plus one equals ONE), where the sum is greater than the parts.
The internet is a symbol of this shared knowledge as well as of our shared connection to one another. It is up to us how we use it.
Translation: I may have a deep pool of resourcefulness within me, but many times it is you who awakens the giant within. What have you to show me today, my Teacher?
Example: I do not consider how others are using our shared knowledge, I only pay attention to my own usage. This, as I see it, is my sphere of influence. My search for inspiration is what gets me up in the morning. During this crisis, I have been practicing with even more focus.
When the going gets tough, the warrior gets going…
I anticipate and appreciate those everyday miracles of everyday life. I have learned that because I value them I am never disappointed. This practice has served me well, and I have been actively searching for, and sharing, something colored beautiful to think about instead of dwelling on suffering and fear.
If I can do something about it I will, however, if I cannot, it does no good to dwell on it (or read about it over and over).
Creation is finding active solutions that become our responses to challenging situations. Humans are ingenious beings! I am amazed at our ability to create new programs and services quickly. Consider the following innovations that have been activated and put into place since this crisis began. These are just a few:
Health monitoring – the development of an app that allows an individual’s temperature to be monitored by phone, as well as a shared data pool that will contribute to a clear, workable protocol for future emergencies.
In Canada and other countries, doctors can now treat patients online. They can also practice remotely via robotic “virtual doctors.”
Purchasing groceries online – this is a relatively new program for local grocery stores, at least in my area.
Buying local – as supply lines become disrupted, our focus on supporting local businesses and buying local has become even more important.
Translation: Extreme adversity has the potential to bring out the best in us. It’s much healthier to focus on our best than our worst.
Example: Before the state of emergency, I was going to the store to buy my groceries. Now I am using their online services and finding it quite efficient. The groceries are prepared by the store staff and we make a call when we arrive to have the groceries delivered to our vehicle. This process has its glitches, but they are getting worked out. I will continue using it in the future. This practice compensates (at least in a small way) for the loss of jobs in this sector by creating a demand for employees to shop for me. During the COVID-19 situation, this also keeps me out of the grocery store, meaning, a reduced threat to the health of retail staff.
Artistry is about creating a vision. I love the exercise of considering how many people have contributed to my wellbeing. Consider the hundreds and thousands of hours of creative thought, ingenuity, planning, design, and construction that went into the smallest of items that you take for granted each day. These make our life so much easier, but they wouldn’t happen if we didn’t understand that we are stronger together.
Canadian politicians (and many others worldwide) are working together and sharing resources in a way that may never have been seen before. Traditional antagonisms between parties are put aside as we all work together to neutralize this shared threat.
The concept of a basic universal income is being enacted, at least for the period of recovery from a pandemic. This will give our policymakers valuable data for the future.
Translation: No action or achievement is accomplished in a vacuum. The Elegant Arts (forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, freedom, patience, humility, silence, trust – and appreciation, from which the ability to value the rest springs) are always pursued in the spirit of cooperation.
Example: This state of emergency has revolutionized the way we view our food delivery. Without farmers to grow it, truckers to transport it, grocers to stock their shelves, and the retail staff who go to work each day in the midst of this crisis to keep us fed, this situation would be much worse.
Some will say they are just doing their jobs. Some will say they really don’t want to be there and are scared each day they go to work. These folks are a valuable resource. They are so much more than essential workers. In the spirit of cooperation, it is up to us to keep them as safe as possible by staying at home as much as possible. That is what I do.
An artist is grateful for the gifts she finds within. She is grateful for the words she speaks and shares and for the Inspiration behind them. Artists know that to share Inspiration is to keep feeling it.
Translation: When we are grateful to others we are acknowledging that we are cared for, supported, and loved.
Example: This public health crisis has made all of us deeply aware of the courage and strength of doctors, nurses, orderlies, janitorial, and all medical staff that care for us when we are sick.
As a Canadian, I am more and more grateful each day for our medical professionals and our health care system.
Courage is the essence of an artist. It is a willingness to put yourself out there and reveal who you are in a public manner. It is a willingness to show your beauty even when you know that others may not see it, or value it. It is being the light in the darkness – letting nothing or nobody limit your brilliance.
The warrior must find herself in the depths of her own being. This is the opposite of battle. It isn’t victory or surrender – it is vital to drop all thoughts and talk of war.
This journey is peace – blending, integrating, accepting, and imaginative. It is composed of free-flowing effervescent curiosity. Strong-arm any part of it and find yourself stuck. Suspended. Inhibited.
The peaceful spirit warrior drops her armor, shields, and weaponry, one by one. The world that at first seems upside down becomes right-side up.
Translation: Courage is the essence of a peaceful warrior.
Example: I have found infinite value in the teachings of The Tao.
It teaches us that humans live best in a state of calm with intentional bursts of action. Psychology also teaches us that if we live too long in a state of active vigilance, of fight or flight...that when our sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated for too long, we become exhausted. It can make us physically and mentally ill. Accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest aspect of our humanity, allows us to return to a calm state where we have the presence of mind to relax, breathe, and observe.
According to the Tao, to live in a state of perpetual action, with occasional intervals of calm, is a state that goes against our nature.
Mastering moves does not make a master. One must also master the mover.
The master understands that the only opponent she has is herself. The one who challenges what is defeats himself.
This is the nature of reality.
When I became aware of the nature of nature, the way of the natural world, I began to observe it all around me. Astonished, I kept being both delighted, and confused, because I hadn’t seen it before.
When the student is ready the teacher will come…
Slowly, I began to understand what this saying meant!
I became more and more fascinated by what I could see now that I had learned how to relax, breathe, observe. To be quiet and listen.
As it turns out, the master instructor also utilizes silence – she listens, thinks twice, and speaks once she has gathered the information required for skillful action. For the master, effective action is the result, the reward, for their observation and patience. No action is ever wasted. In this manner, success and defeat offer their own rewards, because the master understands the value of experience.
All mastery is self-mastery. The master, like the student, is always learning. Every student becomes his own master instructor, because, as the master teaches the student, the student teaches the master what she needs to learn to become a better master.
The moment the master stops learning is the moment she ceases to be her own master. It is, truly, the moment of defeat.
Every human being alive can attain this level of mastery…the mastery of the self. It takes daily practice – a calm state, a relaxed breathing pattern, enhanced observation skills, but most of all, patience.
COVID-19 has brought us face to face with our fear, our true adversary. Will we allow fear to rule?
Translation: Become a peaceful spirit warrior and let all thought of war dissolve into silence.
Namaste…I wish you well, my friends…