Silence, Nature, and Truth
I just spent a week in Rocky Mountain National Park with my wife’s extended family. Visiting a different national park every year has become an annual tradition. We hike, laugh and enjoy each others' company. This year’s highlight was a solo hike into the mountains, alone in the grandeur of a godly place.
I find it fascinating that throughout history, when every great religious prophet wanted to connect with God, they went alone into nature. Jesus and Moses wandered the desert. Buddha sat under a bodhi tree. Mohammed prayed in the wilderness. The Aborigines have their walk-about. First Nation’s people their vision quest, and for centuries mystics have isolated themselves in deep woods or caves, speaking to empty air, eyes inward.
Part of the answer is in silence itself. Every religious tradition teaches, it is in silence that God speaks the loudest. When we are silent, the chattering veil of our mind begins to fade away allowing a connection to something deeper.
This was beautifully stated by the poet Rumi, when he wrote, “The mystery cannot by answered by repeating the question, nor can it be bought by going to amazing places. Only until I have silenced the eyes and stilled the heart. Only then can I begin to cross over from confusion.”
In the quest to understand our greater truth, silence becomes the mother tongue. It is the essential first step to greater wisdom.
But being quiet, in and of itself, is not the teaching. The lesson of the prophets is more than just silence. The prophets teach us instead to be silent in nature.
There is a quality that exists in the natural world that many of us seek. It is the way things happen, a divine order, which has a sense of “this is the way it should be”. We can call this quality “is ness”; as in “it just is”.
This “is ness”, the events of natural life, have happened on this planet an infinite amount of times, an infinite number of days beyond human knowing. This natural order occurs without the addition or imprint of human preference or perspective.
For example, when a bobcat kills a rabbit it is never personal between the two. If a strong wind blows down a maple, it is not a deliberate premeditated act by the wind against the tree. Instead it is what happens every day in the natural world; actions without prejudice, revenge, or ego. The only considerations are food, shelter or continuation of the species. Everything in nature, unlike what is created by humans, occurs without personal agenda.
Why is this important?
Quantum physics teaches that everything has a “field” around it, a molecular energetic at an atomic level that interacts with the “fields” of other things. If you place two pendulum clocks together, they will synchronize their tick-tock swings. Women who live together often report their monthly cycles coordinating over time. Fields mutually affect one another and in matters of impact, it is the larger field that effects the smaller. After all, the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around.
This is the wisdom of the prophets. Every time we place ourselves in the larger field of nature, we create an opportunity to be shaped and changed by nature’s “is ness.” By being in this larger field, we reset our own basic truths, we realign beyond agenda and ego to a deeper place.
For over twenty-five years in northern Canada I have put people into the wilderness for a solo experience. The instructions are usually simple. Find a spot that calls you. Sit quietly. Do not do anything. Just be. Make wherever you are, in however it feels right, your home.
Upon return, in almost every case, I am struck by a certain quality that returnees exhibit. The eyes are often exceptionally bright, and the voices soft and quiet. No matter what the experience, each returnee comes back changed. This transformation is not typically about what was seen but what was felt. It was less that people changed, but instead stood more revealed.
A few years ago I was sitting on the shores of Lake Onondaga with Chief Orville Lyons, of the Onondaga Nation. Chief Lyons was telling me about his people’s various paths to wisdom. After 30 minutes of discussing initiatory rites and ceremonies, he paused, his voice almost a whisper. As if telling me a great secret, he said, “You know. If you really want the truth…ask a tree.”