Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy


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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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“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

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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.


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Elusive enlightenment

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Photo: Marcuso. FreeDigitalPhoto.net

by Joseph Raffa

 

What is this enlightenment we hear about?  So many people seek it.  Does it indeed exist and what is its nature?

So much effort 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.

* A collection of Joseph’s beautifully expressed reflections on life and living is now available for Kindle from http://www.amazon.com/Beside-Still-Waters-Joseph-Raffa-ebook/dp/B00GXG7YGI/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1399003550&sr=8-5&keywords=Joseph+Raffa

Stillwaters cover website


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An Easter reflection

by Joseph Raffa

It’s almost Easter, the time Christians celebrate the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. About 2,000 years ago Christ stormed through Judea and Galilee and, in a few short years, stirred up such ferment in the way he conducted his missionary life that his name and deeds have become etched in the historical movement of mankind’s consciousness. So much so, that even today, he is revered by millions throughout the world.

All this from a small beginning in a barren (mostly), desert backyard of a place that no-one would care about if it hadn’t come to be important to the Western world and to the Jewish and Arab people who live there. It was then, of somewhat strategic importance and conquering armies from East and West took turns laying claim to the area.

Somehow, because of this man and those who zealously spread his message, where he was born, where he died on the cross, his burial place and the extent of his ministry have become the focus of fervent adulation by devout Christians. How is it that one man could initiate such a hurricane religious change across the world?

The old Gods were swept aside to be replaced by the concept of One God. Idolatry was replaced with the worship of a God of light and love – a Being without form or shape – something to be contacted in hallowed moments of prayerful contemplation. Living rightly according to God’s laws was enthusiastically encouraged and this man who proclaimed a new way of living settled in the hearts of millions and became their inspiration.

In a way he is with us still. Religious days are celebrated by the faithful, each according to tradition. There are churches scattered the world over with a distinguishing cross somewhere on or in the buildings. Libraries contain sections with books on his life and from time to time, controversy surfaces in the media on some aspect of his life. Who was he? What was his purpose? Were the miracles for real?

Interpretations abound as the human reason stretches every which way to understand those momentous events and the tremendous  growth of the churches that followed in his name. A most unusual performance and one that confounds the rational mind. Perhaps this man did have a divine backup as he claimed. After all, a divine nature is something the rational mind can’t get its inquisitive nose into.

What a combination that would be – the divine and the human, dwelling in loving harmony. What kind of a harvest would that produce on this brawling, bruising, mixed up planet? Would it herald the end of violence and selfishness, of the divisions that mankind has raised? Would starvation be quickly dealt with and all the other kinds of actions that degrade what should be the fair and gentle face of mankind?

I suppose Christ had the answer to that and he considered it so important that he refused to compromise his standing when his time came. So, he faced the torture, the crucifixion, the taunts and all else the misunderstanding ones subjected him to. And he came up trumps. He did what he had to do – did it in style, perhaps with a sense of showmanship. It was, after all, an ingenious idea, the resurrection. It guaranteed an historical immortality.

After all these years, his light still shines down to us. When in need, knock and in some way, he’ll be there. Doesn’t matter who you are, what your life has been. If the need is deep and the asking sincere, the response will come.

What moved him then, what inspired him to go to the cross – is with us now. It’s closer than we know, waiting for us to return. This kind of love knows no boundaries. And should the divine enfold you, just for a moment, you will have joined that hallowed nature that Christ spoke about when he said “I and my Father are One.”

Note: Joseph wrote these words in 1994. They are as relevant today as they were then.

CrosscoverA complete collection of Joseph’s moving pieces about Jesus is available. Beyond the Cross, The Christ Collection is being offered at a discount price in the lead up to Easter. http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Cross-Joseph-Raffa-ebook/dp/B00C8SN63K

 

 


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Seasons of living

eng_253by Joseph Raffa

Our lives are a ritual of prearranged patterns. Every morning it begins anew. We rise, wash and go through our routines. Blinds are raised, windows are opened to let in fresh air. We dress according to taste – light and colourful for the summer, warm clothing for the winter.

Every season has its chores but overall, some things do not change. Breakfast, dinner, tea, washing up and shopping. Reading the daily paper if that is your preference. Monday to Friday has its own tempo. Work for many, except for the unemployed, the retired – whose time is their own – and the children.  Some are cradled in their mothers’ arms or pushed about in prams and strollers. Those old enough head for school on foot, bike, bus or car. The seasons dictate their own patterns in dress, food, entertainment and behaviour.

Sometimes the ritual is broken by sickness, accident, or an unexpected change. But whatever it is that disrupts the orderly flow of our lives, once it’s over, we return back to the patterns we are comfortable with if we can. Being human, we love the complex patterns of our lives. And we like guidelines to direct our travel.

We have our web of relationships – our home, which is the centre of our living and our refuge – family connections and a host of gadgets to make life comfortable. And that’s the way it goes, a mixture of happy and sad, until death drags us away. Rituals then, don’t mean a thing any more.