The sound of silence.
For many years, before my teacher sent me out to share Dhamma with others, I was a dedicated disciple. I trained hard and attended what seems like hundreds, of long and intensive vipassana retreats. Hour upon endless hour sitting in silence, watching the breath in my nostrils and the ever changing sensations in my body. It was a blessed training with a beautiful teacher, and something I truly recommend now for all serious students of Dhamma.
Some of my fondest memories are of sitting, often alone, in the Dhamma hall, breathing in the fragrance of incense and immersed in the silence of deep concentration. Then passing through this silence, like birds flying though the sky, come the sounds from the kitchen. People talking, pans rattling, kettles singing, telephones ringing. The sounds of the monastery. The sounds of life.
To be still and in peace amidst chaos and confusion is the blessing of the non demanding heart.
These then, are the gifts of a true spiritual life and the gift that comes from understanding what meditation really is, and then taking that understanding into ordinary, everyday life.
The sounds, fragrances and apparent disruptions to our practice are actually friends that come to help us along our way.
And look, it's here that we see the nature of life, that no matter what we want we cannot control it, and the nature of mind, that no matter what we want, we cannot control that either!
So the teaching is simple. Surrender, accept and be with things as they are. Of course, we need wisdom and each moment is different, so we must be fluid enough to respond the the situation as it presents itself.
If your house is on fire you must of course accept the reality of the situation, but then respond with appropriate behavior. Call the fire brigade, leave the building. Don't misunderstand the situation, and don't be the victim either!
When there is true understanding, everything is seen to be only what it is and not more than that, and the desire to create perfect conditions for our meditation practice or to life itself, can only lead to unhappiness in the future.
The mind does not ask our permission or consent to present particular mental states, so we have to accept what arises.
The mind does not say, 'excuse me, but do you mind if I am angry now, or jealous or upset?'
These mind states come and go as they choose, not as we decide, so for our own happiness, for our own peace of mind we have to be with things as they are.
This is the reality, and that is what we accept - the reality of the moment. Making demands that the whole of the universes should be silent whilst we meditate is to misunderstand the teaching completely.
Making demands that the whole of life should always be comfortable and easy for us is naive.
Better to be with things as they are and respond to the moment from a patient and loving attitude. This way things are bound to go well, and you will be happy and then share that undemanding happiness with all beings.
May all beings be happy.
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