"The Deep Wilderness"
Since the weather is so beautiful in the desert at this time of year, many people travel out here to visit during the “holiday" season. In fact, our population almost triples during the month of December – restaurants are packed, stores crowded, parking spaces are at a premium and traffic is congested.
Interestingly enough, although “Christmas” is ostensibly a Christian holiday, the calendar of the Christian church indicates that the celebration of Christmas is several weeks away and we are now in the season of Advent. The Advent season is not a time to “busily” prepare for the upcoming Christmas festival; rather, it is a season for quiet contemplation, a season for spiritual awakening, a season for being aware and awake to the revelations life has to offer us in each and every “present” moment. In many ways, the season Advent is the antithesis of what most people do during this chaotic “holiday” time.
Yesterday morning my wife and I decided that we would enter into the "Advent” season by taking a long, protracted and rigorous hike out into the deep wilderness area around our house. The trail we took led us well up into the surrounding mountains and ended at a canyon oasis of palm trees. As we walked along, I noticed that the farther we traveled into the wilderness the quieter everything became and then something happened that almost frightened me at first. The prevailing silence became so profound out in the wilderness that I almost thought I lost my sense of hearing - none of the sounds that I usually experience in our house or in the neighborhood, no car sounds, no distant sounds of a radio or a TV, no sounds of voices, just silence, a silence so utterly profound that it was almost frightening.
My wilderness experience made me realize just how much noise pervades every aspect of my everyday life and it also made me realize how wonderfully nurturing profound silence can be for the human spirit.
Buddhists often talk about the importance of deep listening as a discipline on the path of enlightenment.
Thich Nhat Hanh once said:
When you've been able to still all the noise inside of you,
when you've been able to establish silence, a thundering silence,
you begin to hear the deepest kind of calling within yourself.
Yesterday as we ventured out into the deep wilderness, I realized that the profound, thundering silence offered me an invitation to “deeply listen." Listening to the sounds of silence, I became aware of a presence that was far beyond my own tiny little self. The silence called me out of my separated sense of self and called me into relationship with the cosmos, into a connection with an abiding spirit of enduring Love.
Author and spiritual director, Thomas Keating, once said:
Silence is the language God speaks and
everything else is a bad translation.
Yesterday, the profound silence in the deep wilderness was indeed the “thundering” voice of “God.” What a perfect way to begin the Advent season.
I am reminded of something else Thich Nhat Hanh once said about silence:
Silence is often described as the absence sound and yet
silence is a very powerful sound.
When I listen in silence it’s not like I hear no sounds; rather, I hear more sounds, maybe even all the sounds outside of my own isolated self, sounds that I often missed before because I only wanted to hear the sound of my self.
When I woke up this morning I thought about all those people in town who have come out here to visit, all busily celebrating the “holiday" season or preparing for Christmas. So, this morning, I went outside and breathed into the silence of the dawning day and I surrendered to it, melting into a wild, passionate, mysterious presence.
You certainly don’t have to live in a desert to listen deeply and you don’t have to be a Christian to celebrate “Advent.”