There was nary a man-made noise as I listened with delight at streamside to the gently flowing current and various birds. Unseen, passive watchfulness gathered undirected attention. An hour passed quickly, almost unnoticeably.
True meditation occurs when goal-less, effortless awareness of the outer and inner movement induces spontaneous stillness of mind. Just as the phenomenon of meditation began however, someone started up a tree shredder on the other side of the hedge across the creek.
Tree shredders are to leaf blowers as jet engines are to blaring car stereos. They assault not only the ears but the entire body.
Naturally I reacted, first with a physical jolt, then with anger. But the timing was so obvious, and such things happen so often while meditating in the park or backyard, that it’s beyond coincidence.
Since people don’t start up generators (like my unseen neighbor when I take a meditation in the backyard) or tree shredders to annoy me, what is going on?
Is there a movement of the ‘dark metaphysical’ in human consciousness? That is, is there collective darkness, plus intentionality, of which the individual conduit is unaware?
I feel yes. And we cannot avoid darkness anymore than we can avoid noise. One has to meet both, as they arise, inwardly and outwardly, while allowing daily space for a healing, sacred silence to be.
The sounds of nature and noises of man hold tremendous meaning, if one knows how to listen. Normally, we react with recognition, annoyance or indifference to sounds and noises. People living next to railroad tracks or freeways can become inured to the extreme noise, even though it affects the health of the body.
The human being requires regular periods of stillness and silence. Not just because before the Industrial Revolution we dwelled amidst the sounds and silences of nature, but much more importantly, because silence is in the nature of things.
Acoustically speaking, the ‘Big Bang’ is the greatest misnomer. There are no sounds in the vacuum of space, and there was no explosion in any case.
The universe was not created at some point and is winding down or speeding up like a comic clock, but is being continuously created from infinite depths of silence. This background silence is synonymous with deathless death, the everlastingly mysterious ground of all energy and matter that gave rise to the universe in the beginning, and in its perpetual beginning in the present.
The human being communes with this inseparable ground of death, creation, love and God with the complete silence of thought.
It’s strange how the evolutionary cognitive development – symbolic thought — that gave us the neural capacity for conscious communion with the sacred, is a tremendous impediment to realization of cosmic intent.
Being at one with divine silence is the highest capacity of the human being. To the extent that we only hear the noise of man, outwardly and inwardly, we are incapable of ‘hearing’ this silence.
I live where the din of freeway traffic varies according to weather conditions and time of day. Sometimes the traffic din is overwhelming; sometimes I can’t hear it at all. I’ve come to feel that the freeway din is the noise of human consciousness made manifest.
The thing about listening to one’s reactions to man-made noise – generators, leaf blowers, motorcycles, freeway din, etc. – is that it makes silence that much sweeter.
When thought spontaneously ceases in intense, non-linear attention to ugliness and beauty, to noise and stillness, one feels the cosmic womb of silence.
The self-made darkness dominating human consciousness does not want us to commune with the immanent sacredness that pervades nature and the cosmos. Can one face and rise above it?
Though a meditative state was beginning as the tree shredder started grinding branches into wood chips, I took it in stride after the initial reaction of shock and anger. I didn’t get up and leave, but remained with conditioned and emotional reactions, as I had enjoyably done during the previous hour of salubrious silence.
There was a hint of fear, I admit, and the question, ‘what the hell is going on?’ To my surprise however, the mind was not jolted out of a meditative state, but remained calm and curious.
Suddenly the shredder stopped. The external silence returned, and silence deepened inwardly. A small, white-headed tree climber flew up and circled the beech in front of me. I felt an explosion of affection.