Why do buddhists value time alone and in silence so highly? Where is the joy in solitude? What is the beauty of silence? The reason, I have found, is that silence and solitude give us a moment to be who we truly are, without pretense. If we are constantly distracted from our feelings by Facebook news feeds, flipping through channels, working at the office, working on a project for school, etc., then there could be a huge sorrow in our hearts that we never consciously know about, process and release. Only in silence does the distracting noise of surface chatter cease and the truth begin to reveal itself wholly. When we finally take time to take a walk alone, or sit by the river alone, or go to the mountain alone, we can suddenly sense all that lies beneath the surface of our being. Whether it's the divorce we went through as a child, or pain involving an ex-lover, or the hardship of watching our mother get abused, there are so many hard things that we suppress in the hopes that it will magically go away. But to feel IS to heal, often times. And to look at what truly happened with love for yourself and the others involved (which isn't always easy) can liberate you from these massive, yet hidden wounds we carry around with us wherever we go. Over time these emotional and spiritual wounds can sometimes manifest as physical wounds: headaches, muscle aches, and I have heard of and seen cancers develop from emotional duress and be healed through emotional release. To truly feel pain, address it, learn from it, love it and heal it, is not so comfortable or easy. For this reason, often times distractions are welcomed so that we can postpone feeling and gaining the associated wisdom and healing that comes with feeling. But I assure this process of feeling, addressing, learning, loving and healing is worth every moment of it. Luckily we don't have to tackle everything that comes with silence and solitude all at once. Even bite sized amounts of this can assist in creating incredible forward motion and healing. While the process of truly feeling your feelings can be a little challenging in the moment, the rewards are liberating and feel like a weight off your back. This process is best approached with a prayer to the ancestors to help you process the feelings. They will help and help a lot. It also seems to be worth doing if it is done with the objective of finding love for all parties involved. Not to say that what they have done was any good; This is just to say that you seek to find love them (or yourself) even in the face of atrocity. The ancestors can help with this too; It is their specialty. They are real--we can at least give them a chance to help by requesting their help and presence. Space for solitude and silence does not happen on its own in a world like this. There seems to be a need for deliberate action on your part to claim your time from a world that believes it owns you and your time. It does NOT. And the more the world needs you, the more important it is that you demand and work for your solitude and silence, or else all your work will be distorted by the pain that lies beneath. It seems to be most effective when it occurs in nature, with only rivers, trees, rocks and birds as your silent but loving companions. Mother Earth seems to have a way of deftly listening to and soaking in your sorrow or anger or grief or pain and transmuting it into strength and understanding. So, if you wish to find relief from that pressure that nags at you day and night, that which you can't quite name or define, then take time to be alone for an hour once a week with no phone, no television and no "work." If you wish to create a new project that hold great importance to you, take a walk alone in silence for one hour/week (at least) to feel into why you are doing it and how it could be. These times of silence are ripe with truth, peace, growth, sometimes pain, but eventually a deep reward for you and all life on earth. And who knew we'd have to fight for silence? Who knew we'd have to work so hard to just not work? Haha. But find your silence. Claim your silence. Demand your silence from a world that demands you have none. Have the courage to sit in that uncomfortable sea of nothingness where you finally have to face all the things you wish didn't exist but do. It is essential to your well being and functioning. Find your place(s), whether it be that one clean room in your house; that one spot beneath a tree in your backyard; the nature place that takes ten minutes to drive to; or the river flowing behind your house. Model to the next generation that this time of review and silence is not an indication of laziness or selfishness; It is an indication of wisdom and sophistication, and ultimately, efficacy. We--a society so obsessed with noise, news clips, action, arguments, debates, anger, confrontation, stimulation and busy-ness--must recreate ourselves and re-carve a place of silence (some might call it prayer) in our lives. It is a great healing measure for the wounded world outside of us, and the wounded world within us. WE CAN HEAL.
This flower alone,
which at once
is rooted in beauty
and whose petals
reach out to beauty
This flower alone,
whose quiet song is drowned
by the blasts and by
the evening news
of the modern world
(but is heard
by the lucky few
who bend to listen)
This flower alone,
and the ambrosia
it plants in every cell
of my being
This flower standing here alone,
living proof of wonder;
living proof of hope;
living proof of beauty;
living proof that God's love for humanity
has not lost its devotion.
This flower alone,
who sits patiently like
a prophecy waiting
to be known
This flower alone,
like a messenger in the dark of night
is going to be
This flower alone,
is enough to change my life forever.
The glittering distractions of the information age vanish
and there is only me, the lover,
and you, the wonder.
And if the only beauty alive in the world was this flower
and if all the rest was chaos,
this flower alone,
would still instruct me by sensation
that I am held in the arms
of something greater.
And if my whole life was colored by darkness and destruction
to one day be so blessed as to just behold this flower,
would be worth
and my dying.
This flower alone
in a moment
deprogrammed my mind
to eat faith and not fear
to wait on joy and not sorrow
to expect communion and not solitude
to face the fires of the world with this unwavering knowing
of beauty and all the fruit it brings.
This flower alone,
in its unassuming tenderness and grace
has in a moment
incinerated my grief
like sweetgrass in the flames
and left behind only the
scent of what is real.
These eyes can see
the beautiful song sung
And if I could rest
in this place
for just a moment
I would remember who you are
and who I am
and where we are
and how it is supposed to be
Concrete may last for a decade
but the earth will never
stop bursting through it.
This flower alone,
a window to the truth,
plucks me from illusion
and plants me into peace.
Creation's perfect body lovingly ignores the evening news.
Like a lava rock in the fire.
Unscathed, unchanged and unafraid.
I can only pray to be more like you.
You who has no name.
You who has no money.
You who has no clothes
and eats the light of the sun.
This flower alone,
unintentionally and nonchalantly declaring to the universe
awaits us all
whether in this life
or the next.
She accidentally wins every argument against her
just by being everything that she is.
The warring nations try not to look at her
lest they become dumbfounded and see that
all their great plans are jejune
in the face of just one piece
of her pollen that can generate children
as beautiful as her
so wondrously and effortlessly.
And can anyone please tell me the purpose of beauty?
Why is it here?
Why do we feel the way we feel when we stand before it?
Why are her petals painted this way?
And how does it help the economy?
Is it here to make us famous?
Or could these brushes against her being truly be
God’s calligraphy against the world whispering to us
in the dark of night about what we already are?
And how can this flower alone
with no hands and no words
be strong enough to turn my face away
from the nightly news
and towards a sight
that taught me more
than the ivy league ever could?
I see now why the darkness has
so systematically isolated us from
Creator's natural world.
Because humans lost in their infatuation with
trees and bees and rocks and rivers
are hard to control.
They can only laugh at coercion,
or worse, you could start laughing yourself.
And if I was just one soldier
who dropped her gun on the ground
and ran into the forest
in search of more of these flowers
would it do anything to change the world?
Or would the war still rage on?
But if the whole army came with me
would we finally rob the world of war
and sweetly sing with her songs of praise
thanking that lapping waters
like a bunch of human beings
lost in the wonder of Creator's
great scheme to feed our bodies, minds and souls.
When the people were held captive at Fort Sumner they did not have access to food or water. Every year we tried to plant our corn seeds in the barren sand. And every year our crops failed. Any man who dared escape was shot on site. The men with guns brought in their alcohols and the strange language they spoke could not be reconciled with our own. In our Diné (Navajo) language, we had no word for "power," no word for "money" and no word for "conquest." How could we begin to negotiate with a force we could not fathom?
The shock of violence took us by complete surprise and our words get caught in our throats to this day.
Perhaps the hardest thing we faced in this concentration camp, Hwééldi, the place of suffering, was the treatment of our women. They loved their children dearly and the soldiers understood this. If our foremothers wanted food or water for their children, they would have to give their bodies to the soldiers, over and over again. Their husbands, brothers and sons went mad at the sight and sound. This place was not meant to destroy our bodies. It was meant to destroy our souls.
Why would I ever bother to invoke such a dark and painful chapter in our nation's history? Please trust that I do not write these things to place blame, judgement or guilt on anyone, dead or alive. I know that these are useless emotions that create far more harm than they prevent. I write these words with patience, love and completeforgiveness, for my people and for all people, to bring us closer to freedom and closer to beauty as a human family. I write this because, quite unfortunately, this history is not history. It is still living and breathing through my people today.
To explain, after four years of this torture and starvation at Fort Sumner, we were released back into the sea of sand, back to Diné Bikeyah, our homeland that we had known for millennia upon millennia.
We were released on one condition: that we give our children to the boarding schools that the government had established for them. The official policy of the "Bureau of Indian Affairs" at this time was, "Kill the Indian, Save the Man." Destroy the native culture within and bring out of this same child a "civilized" man, and do this through boarding schools that were more army barracks than learning places.
Thousands of our little yazhi, plucked from the life of ajohbá', the life of loving kindness, and dropped into the hands of these institutions which still exist today. Day in and day out they were told to forget their language, to forget their families, to forget their customs and values, to forget the land, forget the smell of dried cedar on coals, the way the corn seeds burst through the soil on crisp summer mornings, forget the sound of the blue bird's song at dawn. Forget it all. And trade it in for a more "formal education" of reading, writing and arithmetic.
This plan has largely worked. Native languages go extinct every month and our children are continually pursuing a Western life, forgoing our earth-based existence.
My grandmother tells me stories of her time at the boarding school. She tells me about the physical abuse--only to reassure me that they only did this because "they loved her" and wanted her to be "disciplined." My grandfather tells me of the times the dorm matron would touch him in uncomfortable ways. From this point, cycles of physical and sexual violence echo through the generations until one of us has the courage to speak it out into the open, forgive and transmute the pattern.
Diné (Navajo) people, native to the deserts of what is now called New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, are living crippled by the effects of this sustained inhumane treatment. We have a 42% unemployment rate, 20% of us have diabetes and one third of our people lack electricity and running water while the cities around us flourish with golf courses and lighted down towns. Our home is being minded, fracked and drilled from beneath our feet to fuel the carbon economy. We wouldn't want it if it was offered, but it is striking how the vast majority of the revenue from this behavior never reaches our plates. This is the state of nearly every native community in the country: defeat, exploitation, hopelessness.
Recently, I picked up a Diné woman who was hitchhiking outside of Gallup, NM. Her name was Michelle. She was beautiful and she was drunk and I worried for her.
Despite her inebriation, she prayed in our native tongue all the way down the road, asking for blessings upon me and upon her children, who were taken from her by social services.
We pulled up to a few boards of plywood and tin roofing that she called home and she stumbled out. I shed tears as she made her way into the shack. I knew she would be cold and alone that night on a windswept hill outside of Window Rock, Arizona.
What was even more painful was that I knew she was not alone in her suffering, but that so many native people, throughout the country, have fallen into such holes of addiction and poverty. Indeed, I only climbed out of this hole myself just a few years ago.
I am writing this to say... Fort Sumner was not in 1864. Fort Sumner is today, tomorrow and every day until our nation works together to bring the Diné and other native nations out of their long years of discontent.
It is not money that will do this. It is not more Indian Health Service clinics that will do this. It is not more technology or fast food restaurants that will do this. Love. Love alone will do this. The cure is an acknowledgement of and an apology for this ancient wound and an effort to reverse its effects. It is a declaration, ringing out from our every word and action as a nation, that our native ancestors were not inferior, were not worthless, were not "savage" or "uncivilized," but rather, they were equal to all others around the world and that, in all actuality, they were quite beautiful and deserving of love, kindness and respect.
In the words of Sun Bear, a Chippewa elder who passed from flesh not too long ago, "I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man."
By this definition, our people were incredibly civilized. We lived in one place, without courts, police men or war, for thousands and thousands of years, and never depleted the natural cycles that surrounded and sustained us.
If we are ever to regain this state of health and civilization as Diné people, the world needs to first stand behind us when we say, "We are beautiful children of the Creator and we belong here, in our own home."
The world needs to take away all the monuments and icons that glorify the conquest of our people (think the twenty dollar bill, Harney Peak and Kit Carson Park) and replace these monuments with symbols of peace and reconciliation.
We need to work together to build this sense of reconciliation between white and red and enact this reconciliation in our every motion.
We need to apologize to each other. We need to forgive one another. We need to share with each other and commune in the abundance of our Mother Earth together. We need to take the time to speak and to listen to one another's stories. We need to shake the etch-a-sketch of our collective identity until it is not more and replace it with an illustration of truth, forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful collaboration. We need to come together as the wayward brothers and sisters that we truly are and always have been.
I am happy to say that, in many ways, when I look out into the world, this already happening. The federal patent office has revoked the Redskins trademark, the President has sat and listened to the youth of the Standing Rock Reservation, there is talk of changing the name and face on the $20 bill and all throughout the land, our people are standing up again with pride and light in their eyes to pray for a better world.
I am asking you now to join us in this movement to re-write our history as one of triumph over fear instead of triumph over one other. I am asking you to stand with me as we redefine the relationship between native and non-native peoples as one of beauty, joy and synergy. Consider this your official invitation extended from my hand to yours with all the love, hope and respect in my heart for you, your family, your ancestors and your descendents to come.
And so why is it important for me to say these things? Why would I ever invoke these tragedies of our past? I write these things because right now, as we speak, my people are suffocating in smoke of the legacy of "Manifest Destiny." But more so, I write these things because I believe that you and I can do something about it.
Be a breeze thread with me in this tapestry of mighty winds that are sweeping through our communities. Let's become the beautiful gusts of change that our people need, all people need. For in the liberation of Native peoples, there is liberation for all. In a world as interconnected as this, no one is free until everyone is free. Each of us a feather on the body of mother eagle, we will only fly if we fly together. So let us clear the smoke from the heart and lungs of this nation and replace it with the freshness of truth and the exquisite medicine of reconciliation. This is what we were born for.
Yéhgo shidiné'é'! With fortitude my people!
When I close my eyes at night
I can feel the rock being cut open
I hear a grandfather song
and it sounds like sand
the river bottom.
In this song they talk about how
even the mighty canyon walls are formed
by meandering streams.
Beneath the gentle waters there are people.
Not people like you and I.
When I close my eyes at night
I am one of them
and God is the water.
She eats away at me
until I am polished
She teaches me
about being gentle and persistent,
about patience and commitment.
She speaks to me
in trickle language
And try to remember
who you are
along the way.
I have nothing for you
but these words.
Take them with you
and I will see you again
when you arrive
at the ocean’s throne as
one million kernels of sand.”
hums in my blood
quiet as a stream in the night
and it is a song about how
we are all
The eagles dip their talons into Her soft body
and pull from it a fish
for their children.
They sing this grandfather song with her
and it sounds like feathers
cutting into the sky.
In this song they talk about how even hatred surrenders to wonder.
She is breaking my heart apart like
a stubborn puzzle of problems.
Even the hardest
doubts and sorrows
give way to Her infinite grace.
And who knew that sometimes
grace can come from
standing in the wind until
everything we think we own
is ripped away from us and
replaced with a weightlessness
so profound that
we can’t not cry tears
of absolute praise
and run all around the
river banks shouting
to the minnows
and the cattails
and the crawdads
about the truth of beauty!?
About the truth of a God that
breathes through the trees.
The truth of a God that
weaves winter from water and night
weaves bodies from dust and light
and carries us down the river of life
over and over
until we finally understand
the meaning of forever.
In the language of the stones there is no word for mistake.
Only the complete understanding of what it
means to be a beloved son or daughter.
We are the rock
and God is the water.
We mistake humility for weakness. We mistake prayer for weakness. We mistake admitting our imperfections for weakness.
No one is perfect. Luckily for us, life is not about being perfect. It is about having the courage to look at the imperfections in us and in the world and LOVE THROUGH IT. This is strength.
Each day I ask Creator to make me a better person. Not because I am weak but because I am strong enough to fall to my knees and cry. I am finally strong enough to expose all my cuts and bruises to the sunshine where they can be seen and healed. How can the doctor treat your wounds, if you do not show them to Him?
Pretending there is nothing wrong with us doesn't magically make the wounds go away. I wish it did... But there are no shortcuts in healing.
Luckily, we are not here to be perfect. We are here to be broken and learn the meaning of unconditional love by getting put back together again.
every breath a prayer