Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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Climb the Spiritual Mountain

by Joseph Raffa
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Image courtesy marcuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are people who love to climb mountains.  When asked why,

some may say “Because it is there”.  There is another kind of

mountain that others seek to climb – the mountain of Ultimate

Reality.  They do not know why, only that they have to go.

The mountains of time are well defined, the destination sure, the

equipment is available.  Ultimate Reality has no defined pathway

leading to it, the equipment necessary is the nature that we are.

This journey we travel alone.  Gurus can only take us so far,

then we must be left to face our own uncertainty, our weaknesses

and fears, whatever we are.

We move this way, we move that, try this, try that.  When we come

to cul-de-sacs we turn, retrace our steps then start again, over

and over.  Gradually it dawns that we are journeying through

ourselves, that we create the obstacles and the mountain to

climb.  When we’ve exhausted our efforts, when we are at the end

of the line with no more stations to travel to, we pause, and sit

and let go.

Effort falls away – everything is shed – the tiredness, the

struggle, the striving.  We just let go and then suddenly we are

there on top of the mountain.  We have been transported all in

one instant and we are basking in the full sunshine of Being.

Our journey is over, without sense of movement or achievement.

We didn’t do a thing except to be still.  That’s it, just still –

the stillness of a mind not seeking, not striving.  a sudden

unexpected, unexplainable stillness and we are on the top of the

mountain.

We know what we come from and we know where we are going.  Never again will we be

lost in time.  We are home – home where we belong.

 

 

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What is enlightenment?

by Joseph Raffa

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Image by samarttiw FreeDigitalPhotos

What is this enlightenment so many people are seeking? Does it indeed exist and what is its nature?  So much effort is poured into its realisation by the seeking mind.  Meditation along a chosen theme.  Self-discipline – of desire, of the emotions, of thoughts – much of it extremely difficult.

The seeking mind projecting itself into various postures, assuming roles that are expected to help on the way to enlightenment. Always backed up by belief in the outcome.  This supplies the energy to keep the mind focused on the eventual discovery.

Projecting an image while the reality is absent. And what of the image?  Where does this come from?  From the dreams of a mind that must have a target to aim at.  So, it creates effort and travel.  Avenues created by the mind to fashion and sustain the illusion of self-development towards achievement.

Mind goes from here to a problematical there for that is the way of travel that it knows.  Can it travel in this way to enlightenment, to something it doesn’t know?   Mind is so confident that with the means it puts into motion it can build a bridge from darkness to the light.  It fashions the bridges from the words passed down from the masters of long ago, from the prophets, from those considered gurus.

But surely the bridges are built from the ignorance reflected by the mind.  The cement that links the actions is that of illusion. What can come of the mind’s actions but postures cast in a timeful mould, nurtured and placed in the mind’s vision as something of greater value.  They keep the mind embedded in its own playground. They are playthings created to amuse the mind, to pad out its emptiness and offer foundational supports of psychological substance because mind needs something to lean on before it can proceed with assurance.

What will the mind discover while its vision is controlled in this way, while its attention is idea tuned, discipline tuned, focused in on its complex maze of effort?   Will it not stay amidst its postures and projections?  Where then is there enlightenment amongst all this?

All we have is the discordant music of the mind, the shadowy images, the objectives, the disciplinary endeavours that weave and twist in the forefront of the mind, covering all else. And from all this it hopes to give birth to enlightenment, to that strange arisal that surges crystal clear, like a lightning flash, sudden and surprising.

This is not born, nor ever can be from the mind’s persistent efforts to coax it out of the unknown into the perceptive net of the mind.  It arises in moments of deep stillness not fashioned by thought or reason, nor from disciplinary endeavour. This kind of stillness is its own happening.

Its offspring is the enlightenment, the insights that pour into the mind bringing new vistas, new perceptions that expose the illusions created by the mind’s desires to discover something it can relate to – use as a stepping stone of support in its day to day living.

The new comes, not over the roadways of thought or desire but over the timeless bridge.  This brings to an end the movement of time and the sense of separation involved in timeful living.   When this is dissolved enlightenment happens as a natural consequence.  All mind could do was be still.  That’s all – just be still and what enlightenment is, comes through.

 


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The Christ walked this way

An Easter contemplation
by Joseph Raffa

 

Out of the silence He came,

Out of that great love

that knows not beginning or end,

On a mission of mercy.

 

He walked amongst evil,

A shining star of truth,

Radiant with the lustre of the Strangeness.

And oh, how He talked in parables of matchless beauty.

 

In simplicity He walked, unaided by human hands.

His trust lay, not in the social tides of the day,

Nor in the traditional dogmas of the church of his time,

But in that Timeless Tide that dwells

where humans cannot go and remain human.

 

With the God of Love he supped in timeless splendour.

And when the cross reared its stark

and threatening shape across the troubled landscape,

Unflinching and unyielding

He hung there, naked and crucified.

 

Held there, not only by iron nails

hammered deep through feeble flesh

but by the tremendous strength of an immeasurable love.

A human symbol, of a love

that defied the ravages and evil grasp

of a particularly brutal time.

 

And then came the unbelievable –

The mysterious resurrection

When the Sunshine of Truth

briefly walked and talked again in that very same body

that had lain so deathly still.

Pierced by a spear thrust through and through

and finally left for dead

in a cold and lonely cave nearby.

 

But the power of a Great Love moved to reclaim

its blessed son in fulfilment of a promise made –

Arose He,

Walked He,

Talked He,

And those who saw marveled in wonder.

 

Then, like a phantom will-o-the wisp, He was gone,

physically gone, perhaps for good,

Leaving a mystery for people to talk and to think about,

And a lesson in love for all to learn from

and to reach out for,

If they too,

could only leave this home in the vale of time

and travel the timeless way

to that Strangeness that possessed him so.

 

  • From Beyond the Cross, Joseph’s moving collection of inspired pieces about Christ.

Cross coverAvailable from Amazon.com in paperback and e-book formats.

 

 


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His message of love

  by Joseph Raffa

It is almost Christmas and the thoughts of devout Christians turn back to the events that unfolded more than 2,000 years ago. They will not only celebrate the birth of a man, a prophet, a messiah and a religious leader of outstanding qualities but also the remarkable texture of his life. His birth gave little indication of the extraordinary nature of what was to follow nor of how he was to develop into such a spiritual colossus.

From its seeds in this birth, a flowering of incredible beauty came to full bloom in an example of love, wisdom and understanding unparalleled in its expression. He wandered sandy pathways in that barren, desert land giving out his inspired message of love. Such a contrast to the aggressive displays of the time.

His offering was one of peace to a strife-torn area. Peace and love. Not carnal love but spiritual love, that rare quality that flows from the meeting between God and humans. But few there were who could respond to such a high calling and fewer still who could understand. The forces of ignorance, fear and concern for established traditions and authority rallied to crush the living flame of truth that brightly burned whenever he spoke. There was no way though that this spiritual outpouring could be checked by the acts of desperate men. Neither torture nor the cross could halt or obliterate this man’s destiny or his offering to a blighted mankind.

We celebrate in recognition of those qualities and the values he represented. Not yet is the world how he would have it. Much of the behaviour that existed then still stalks the land. Corruption, indifference, violence, brutal suppression, crime – you name it, it happens somewhere, sometime.

And humans still seem powerless, in spite of great technological strides, a knowledge explosion and skill in organisation to halt the flood of all that is ugly in human nature.

It would seem then that his mission was in vain, that his words fell on deaf ears and his example lacked the power to inspire humans to greater endeavours of goodness. Yet still he lingers in the minds and imaginations of this present time, just as he has done in the past, just as he will do in the future.

He stands as an example in living, as the solution to the problems, the difficulties and the irrational behaviour that plague us today.

Not in his fleshly body. That went the way of all flesh – something to be discarded eventually. Not even in his words, though these carried a message of great importance, but in the living nature, the God he was integrated with. This was his source, his inspiration, his sustenance. This was what he was calling the human race back to – its spiritual homeland where they could join in holy union with the creative power.

Although rejected by many in the land of his birth, over the years his influence has spread and gained considerable attention worldwide.

In their hour of need, in times of tribulation, of sorrow and great suffering, people turn to that silent figure, transfixed on the cross, call his name and pray for his help and guidance.

And in many, a response comes from within, touching the heart, uplifting the mind and giving encouragement and strength to carry on, even spreading gladness and joy where formerly darkness reigned.

Because of this his mission was a worthy one of the utmost value to mankind and its success is not to be measured by those who fail to respond, but by those who come to that very same peace and love that he expressed in such a beautiful fashion while he was here.

Cross coverBeyond the Cross, A collection of Joseph’s moving, inspired writing about Jesus is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon.com. Click here.

 


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Immerse yourself in still waters

Boats on Loch“The human heart longs for peace and harmony. It seeks a restful haven from the relentless busyness of everyday life, drawing us to spend tranquil moments in natural surrounds that offer a brief respite from the hustle and bustle. There is a state of inner stillness, when the endless chatter of the mind has ceased, that a deeper understanding arises. These are the ‘still waters’ that bring new life to mankind, that lay claim to the heart and redirect the mind. These are the waters of peace, love and true togetherness that lift us up to divine heights of being and living.

The still waters of the spirit are the deepest stillness of all. Those who go there lose touch with the senses, their surrounds, with the self they know, even with thinking and feeling.”

So writes Joseph Raffa in the foreword to Beside Still Waters, a beautiful collection of essays that touches on the universal search for meaning. His words inspire readers to reach out for the still waters of the spirit.

Beside_Still_Waters_Cover_for_KindleBeside Still Waters is available from Amazon.com in paperback and e-book formats.


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Awaken the self

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Joseph Raffa

Every human undertaking has its Hall of Fame. Science, medicine, sport, war –  you name it, all have their heroes, the greats who have left a distinguished mark in the social mainstream.

Religion, too, has its heroes – men who walked in harmony with God, enlightened men, moral supermen and women. They too left an indelible mark and their influence lingers long after they have gone.

The greats have become inspirational stepping stones. Their lives and deeds are held up to lesser mortals as worthy of emulation. “Look up to them,” we are told. “See what can be accomplished by dedicated people. Do likewise and lift your living.”

So, tradition settles in and carves its own channel of supportive endeavour; indeed, it becomes an authority rarely to be questioned, something to be accepted as the cornerstone on which to base human living. Being lost and uncertain, feeling perhaps entities of little value, we listen and lodge ourselves in the traditional byways offered to us. We enclose ourselves in traditional cocoons and outlooks and these become the shrouds of security that we are reluctant to cast aside.

The greats speak with such authority. The legacy they have left us in all walks of life makes it difficult for us not to turn to them in our time of need as a source of certainty, reassurance and inspiration. Why then should we divest ourselves of these influences? And what would we replace them with, we who are empty, confused, even lost in time’s seductive embrace?

If the words and experiences of the greats are wisely used, they will not become a crutch that we hold on to forever. Rather they should be seen as an encouragement to explore the human content, to investigate the human relationship with everything going on within and without.

Intelligence that relies on another is not intelligence. To awaken is the only worthwhile purpose in life. To awaken to what we are, to what is going on around us, in our hearts and minds. It is little use to worship at the shrine of past endeavours if we continue to sleep in time, in ignorance of our true nature.

Understanding demands self-reliance, a looking inwards and learning without intellectual restraints. The guidelines of the past are not for the young and adventurous in spirit, for those eager to travel to the timeless heart of human nature.

Whatever we learn in life, whatever teachers we have, there comes a time, if we are to mature, to let go of all the hands we have held for support. Otherwise we will never know the joy of walking alone. Love, truth, demand that we walk inwardly alone. Self-discovery can only take place when we are alone, when all else that prevents discovery – the barriers raised by the mind, the accumulation of timeful experience – have been discarded.

In that great aloneness that is there when authority and self-protection have been put aside, we join the essence that raised the spiritual greats onto the highest pedestal of human acclaim. We see then that there is only Oneness, not great and small; that distinction and divisions belong to the mind, not to the essence. And what is to be worshiped is “that” which comes when the mind is still.

Out of this stillness comes love, respect and maybe service, but that belongs to time where these are effective, each in their way. Essence is complete in what it is and that which joins the essence sees itself in the same light.

That’s the way of it.


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The silent solution

Photo: Neil Mulligan

Photo: Neil Mulligan

by Joseph Raffa

“Don’t speak to me with words,” said the sage as I approached him with my questions on life’s meaning.

“Rather, speak to me as does the sky, with white clouds floating high. See the blueness. Can words describe it – convey the wonder that is there? Words are such feeble things – cast gossamer-like on wings of thought. Life is too grand to be explained.

“Rather than speak, open up, let awareness flow, silent and wordless. Cast not the self as an ‘I’ wrapped in finite form. In this you dwell while all around the grandeur of Nature’s presence calls to thee.

“Join the wonder that you are with the wonder that you see. Discard the chains you fashion, thought-woven and spoken. Be silent as a graven image. Stir not in thought or movement.

“And, in that silence, deeper than any you have yet to be, the answer, not in words, comes to thee of what thou art.”