Silence. Solitude. These words strike fear into our post-modern hearts—especially at Christmas or New Year. We seem to have forgotten the power of escaping for a time into the depths of our inner being, of listening to our breath, of sensing the earth’s heartbeat. There are too many presents to be bought, phone calls to be made, gatherings to attend, children’s noses to wipe. Yet now, as one year ends and another begins, it’s the best time ever to connect with the divine. And where do we discover it? At the very core of each one of us deep within—in silence and in solitude—no matter what kind of noise or chaos may be taking place in the world around us.
Solitude has much to teach us. But it takes courage to become a learner again. It asks that we trust enough in life and in ourselves to drop, even for fifteen minutes at a time, all we know (or think we know) and become quietly receptive to whatever arises from within. It also asks that we respond wholeheartedly to whatever we feel, smell, taste, see and touch: The intense blue of a tiny flower which sears our senses. A wild thought that invites us into a new reality like “maybe I’ll take up scuba diving or write a novel.” Good god, where did that come from? The fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon sprinkled on a cup of dark cocoa. All these splendors, all these blessings go unnoticed unless we create enough quiet time for us to experience them.
ALL IS ONE
The word ‘alone’ was once treated as two words: all one. To be all one meant to be wholly oneself—all of one piece. This is the great gift of any sanctuary. Practiced daily, silence and solitude heal confusion and mend frazzled nerves. Getting “away from it all” to sit on a rock or at a window, to gaze at the sky or to explore the dance of thoughts in your own mind. These things help us come home to ourselves. They allow the wildness of our intrinsic being to converse with our more rational side. To begin, lay aside fifteen minutes each day during which you enter the sanctuary of your own being to sit or walk in silence. Become aware of how silence acts upon you. Are you comfortable with it? Or is it something that you try to avoid? Do you sense that there is a richness here that you may not have experienced for a long time?
Throughout human history, the center of the universe—the axis mundi—formed the core of safety for tribal cultures. It gave them access to great spiritual power, at this universal hub. They knew they could rely on the axis mundi. This made them feel safe. Now we live in a new reality, one which is continually evolving, reshaping itself, adjusting, creating and destroying as it unfolds. But here lies the greatest revelation of all. Today’s axis mundi is no longer tribal. It has become a much more individual experience—a rich cosmic void which lives at the core of each one of us, as it does in the cosmos itself. Here, in solitude and silence, we can come face to face with the divine. It is from here that we draw on visions, energy and guidance for what we long to create. Here, where the universal and the personal divinity meet and merge as one—a life-changing experience.
ENTERING YOUR STILL POINT BRINGS:
- A sense of safety.
- Access to the depths of your own unique truth.
- An experience that enables your own soul can to align itself with the anima mundi—the soul of the cosmos.
- The realization that the universe can communicate in a purposeful way with you.
- A connection with the life you want to create for yourself.
- A chance to explore your dreams and visions.
Once we learn to anchor ourselves within this core, deep within the darkness of our unique essential being, a new expanded reality begins to reveal itself.
ANCHOR IN THE DIVINE
You can read about the axis mundi in the Old Testament story of Jacob’s Ladder. ‘And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed…” and Jacob awakened out of this sleep, and he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”’ (Genesis 28:10-14, 18-19)
You will also find this anchoring experience in the ancient Greek description of omphalos—the navel or hub of the world. They describe it as “the divine body out of which creation emerges.”
To the Buddhists it is Mount Meru, center of the created universe. This axis mundi—the cosmic void—is recreated again and again in the magnificent sand paintings of Tibetan Lamas.
The Hebrews call it the beth-el which means the dwelling place of the divine. For them it was Jerusalem, as it was for the early Christians—at one and the same time, the place where Jesus died on the cross, and where the tree of life stands at the center of the world. The omphalos is always found at the center of a circle into which spiritual power from all directions is poured, and out of which divinely-created forms are brought to birth.
You will even find it in the Chinese symbol for yin and yang, and in the magic circle drawn by children on the playground. Kids know you gather power. You are also protected from attack by the opposing team in any game of hide and seek.
ENTER THE COSMIC VOID
How do you enter the cosmic void and access the power that lies there? Simple. You just create the conditions that can allow it to happen.
Step one is practicing the skill of living in the NOW. Start right now with the most mundane daily task you have to perform. Say you are washing dishes. Decide that, for the next ten minutes, you will be fully present with total awareness of what you are doing. There’s no big deal about this. It doesn’t demand any great effort. It is the easiest thing in the world once you decide to have a go. You’re likely to find it’s also a lot of fun. As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist teacher whose work I admire, says, “You can wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes or you can wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” With every task you carry out—whether it be typing at a keyboard as I am doing right now, combing your hair, opening a door, gazing at a fire—you have the choice of carrying it out mechanically while your mind wanders, or with full attention, which begins to open you to the divine power of the center of your essential being.
LIFE IN THE NOW
Try addressing whatever you do from a point of view of mindfulness—clear, simple attention without a need to analyze, label or judge anything. Just let yourself be fully present from one moment to the next. When mental rumination, thoughts and feelings arise, take a look at them, then just let them go and bring your attention back to whatever you are doing right here, right now. As you practice remaining fully present, what was once a mundane or boring task can become a source of fascination. This is what is known as “whole body-mind seeing”.
When we come to live our lives this way, not only do we forge rich connections with multi-dimensional reality. We move beyond our habitual, limiting ways of thinking, seeing, and being. We begin to touch upon then be fed by the sacred nature of our lives. We live more authentically from our own unique experience of the divine. Try it and see.