Towards the Silent Heart

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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.”

 


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Mightier than pen or sword

By Joseph Raffa

There is an oft-repeated saying that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Although both have been active for many years human nature has not improved significantly for the better. It should be obvious by now that it must take more than the pen, force or human intention to bring about the changes that are badly needed.

A clearer guidance system in human affairs is necessary – one superior to the present collective human reason and one capable of over-riding the disarranged and disjointed efforts that have prevailed to date. What would follow if scientists tried sending a rocket projectile into outer space with a faulty launching system? The rocket could well go anywhere but where intended.

Human living has been in disarray, not expressing the harmony that should flow naturally from being cast in God’s image. Is it the Creator at fault or human nature in ways not yet fully understood? Certainly violence, selfishness and disturbing behaviour have a wider expression than love and happy cooperation.

What’s the attraction that draws people to a vigorous support of the self and its standing in life? If any experience, any action threatens the self or blocks its demands and desires, then reaction and retaliation follow.

Another saying often heard is that unconditional love is the solution to our problems. But this kind of love seems to be beyond most people. Love that expects a return, we know. To give, to do, and gain favours in return, this is the way of the mind, of the self in action. Our love has boundaries. Our families, friends, state, nation, we will give and work for what or who we are identified with. After this our kind of love loses its force. Outsiders are looked on differently.

What we care for then, is the self, all that’s included within its conception of what it is and should look after. Outside of its own area it is somewhat indifferent to what takes place. What then is the self? How has it come into being? What is its basis for action? We know it as a conscious expression in time, a composite expression of physical and mental attributes. These we have evidence of. We hear too that there is a spiritual side – a soul side. This we may or may not know. It depends on whether evidence of the soul has come our way.

Perhaps in this lies our trouble. We act from the physical, mental and emotional side and confusion often follows. Troubles too. Spontaneous action from the soul or spiritual side and there’s a different story. Harmony, love, joy, follow, understanding too. A welcome change in the human expression flows. The self is temporarily put aside, its self-destruct capacity brought to an end.

Where does evidence come from to verify all this? Not from reason. The spiritual is beyond its comprehension. Nor in any way from a mind conditioned by the senses or the ordinary flow of experience. The barriers are too great. The mind can only act from what it knows, talk about what it has experienced or believes.  But life, to be lived without disruption, needs a factual base, one of the reality of what we are and a clear understanding of what is actually taking place. The clearer the understanding, the more informed the actions.

Enter the spiritual, the reality of what we are and the source of the clearest insights that could ever flow into the mind – about human behaviour, its motives for action, its background, even of the ultimate nature of the universal expression.

We hear this, we read words like this and we are stymied. The spiritual is an unknown quantity. We can’t find a signpost pointing the way that guarantees certitude. People try, each in their own way, formulating methods, adopting techniques, meditating, disciplining mind and emotions. Everything helps a little including reading and reflection. But only on an intellectual level. And this is not the spiritual.

The self is persistent in its movements and will continue as long as it is imbued with the idea that intention, application and reason are the way to go.  All this plus the “right” techniques. And that is the core of the difficulty in this business of spiritual discovery. While the self is full of its own activity, that which is not a mere self-projection cannot come shining through.  If the darkness continues can there ever be light?

Understand this. The self is the darkness, the barrier that prevents realisation. While it circulates as the centre of the human expression, it holds centre stage like a prima ballerina. Let the dance of the self stop. Do not feed it in any way. All the strands of self activity must come to rest. Mental, emotional, imaginative, the whole kit and caboodle of what the self is.

And if this is allowed to happen, naturally, spontaneously, it’s like the sudden end of a prolonged storm, Serenity reigns. Serenity and silence. In this moment when the self is not, the spiritual shows its nature and whomsoever it happens to, is reborn. And then you learn that there is something mightier than both pen and sword and also that the spiritual is what we came from and this is what we are going back to and that a life based on spiritual discovery is the best way to go.

Crosscover

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Joseph’s moving collection of short pieces about Jesus is available from amazon.com.uk this weekend at a significant discount.

“The light he reflected is our lighthouse, shining through the gloom of our daily living and lighting our way to  another world, a different way of living.”

 

 

Stillwaters cover websiteThis beautiful collection of essays touches on the universal search for meaning and inspires readers to reach out for the still waters of the spirit. Discount price all this week from amazon.com

“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 to divine heights of being and living.”

Available from http://www.amazon.com/dp/BooGXG7YGI

 

 


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A lifetime alone

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Photo: Simon Howden – FreeDigitalPhoto.net

by Joseph Raffa

A lifetime, etched in loneliness.

A lifetime surrounded by people,

yet still, a lifetime living alone.

A lifetime,

locked within the confines of one’s understanding –

unable to break out,

to share the experiences of a lifetime of living.

Aloneness.

Deeper than the ocean.

An unbridgeable aloneness imprisoned within the emptiness of knowing.

Struggle – against the surrounding walls.

Struggle – to learn, to grow and to know.

There is a whisper abroad

A way out of the darkness.

Search for the light that brightly shines at the end of the dark tunnel of despair.

Go with the light –

To where? To the timeless beyond.

Away from the world of knowing –

from the aloneness and the prison of self experience and into the unknown world of the perfect strangeness.