By Danette Vernon
Khalil Gibran, a poet who lived more than 100 years ago, once beautifully wrote, “Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.”
We rush through our days. We take files home from work and fall asleep over them. We tell ourselves we have to because, “We can’t keep up as it is.” We fill our children’s days, and therefore our own, with soccer, ballet, and any empty spaces which are left, we fill quickly with volunteering at church or some other worthy organization. We’re busy, “We have no time to think.” Exactly. Who can deny, or question our goodness as a mother, or a volunteer, when we so faithfully serve our children or the community?
But what if we did sit quietly for a moment at the “river of silence,” and all that we can’t forgive, or forget, in ourselves or in others, comes up … then what?
Buddhist Meditation Master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche provides guidance, and encourages us to not be afraid when we hear the quiet of the river of silence:
“Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath the veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness. When we slow down, relax with our fear, we find sadness, which is calm and gentle. Sadness hits you in your heart, and your body produces a tear. Before you cry there is a feeling in your chest and then, after that, you produce tears in your eyes. You are about to produce rain or a waterfall in your eyes and you feel sad and lonely and perhaps a little romantic at the same time. This is the first tip of fearlessness, and the first sign of real warriorship. You might think that, when you experience fearlessness, you will hear the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or see a great explosion in the sky, but it doesn’t happen that way. Discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness.”
It can seem in life, that only desperate struggle can lead to relief, but according to Chogyam, no, it’s tenderness and tears.
To illustrate, let me tell you a story about a Tender Warrior and his sadness:
Once upon a Father’s Day Sunday, a Marine officer who had returned from Afghanistan told of his time overseas, the cost, and the end result.
He started with the affirmation that he managed to bring back all of his men, despite their being in charge of a section of road that was essentially lost within a grid of a 1000 square miles. To make matters more severe, they received no support from a village situated just across the river, and they had even been in fire fights with hostiles hidden within the village. These were firefights, wherein civilian casualties may have been a part of the defense of his platoon. He had maps, Google images, and stories that had harsh asides for a Father’s day message. What was his point in outlining this portion of his career for us?
His point was that anger and callousness had eventually overridden his “fellow feelings” for others while he was in Afghanistan. He told us how he had even begun to “hate” the local people. The stories that were engraved in his memory were of a people who were so ready for his men to die, that they refused his Marines the simple humanity of a warning when they were about to roll over a crude bomb in the road. The villagers were silent but for the wailing. They cried and shouted in grief for their sons. “Were their sons killed as incidental to the firefights that erupted with some regularity? Had their sons been amongst the insurgents hiding out in the village?” Hard to say.
He had saved his men, but at what cost to himself? With his return to the normalcy of life back in the states, being at war felt different. It felt like he had been party to the taking of the lives of his brothers, as aren’t we all brothers? And so he cried and he cried. But where does that get us?
This Warrior of the Heart then sought relief in a time-worn story, only from an inspired view — the story of Judas. He noted that Peter and Judas had “both” betrayed Jesus. Yes, that’s true, but so what? His revelation was that there was only one difference between these men, ONE. Both, in his estimation, could have gone on to become men we revere today. One forgave himself and went on to become a man of faith, his written words read by millions over hundreds of years. The other tried to “fix” what he had done by returning the 30 pieces of silver. When that didn’t work, he ended it all.
That is the first lesson of our time at the river of silence, we can’t “fix” the past. There just is no way back to even try. We can only forgive ourselves as Peter did and Judas didn’t. So take some time this week to sit at the river of silence, be still, feel its wetness, and drink deep. It’s a beginning.
Moment of Wellness with Danette Vernon: Offering a unique approach to your active health care needs using a variety of healing modalities, nutritional and wellness coaching to empower you to a new state of health and well-being. 73 Sams Point Road, 524-2554.