Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Guidance Of Silence

“God answers all prayers.  Sometimes the answer is no.”  Most of us are familiar with that old saying. But we often forget the truth of its words as we work through the frustrations of our daily lives. We spend a significant amount of our time thinking about our future, planning our next steps, and sorting out our priorities and choices. Sometimes the plans and the decisions come easily, with remarkably positive outcomes. Other times our direction is muddled, and we struggle with our next set of decisions.

Should I go this way or that? Which option should I choose? When do I have to decide? What will befall me, or others, if I make the “wrong” decision? The confusion of our decision is often as overwhelming as we feel the decision itself is.

Some choose to make their decisions by constructing a logical decision tree of “this therefore that,” led by intellectual reasoning. Others rely on gut instinct – what feels right – and then plunge full steam ahead. Still others flip the coin and march out to “see what happens.” And at certain points in the lives, some choose to ask for help – for Divine guidance.

Asking for such guidance requires no set format to follow, because the Divine meets us where we are, and when the time is right. But there are some pretty good guidelines worth observing. The request can happen in prayer, in meditation, or in reflection while sitting on a mountain rock, sandy beach, or a church pew. Our choice. It happens in our personal alone time and space that we create for just such times. We approach these moments being honest with ourselves about who we are and why we are requesting such guidance. We act in the humility that we do not have all the answers, and with a willingness to turn over our future to something (someone) other than ourselves. We trust the Guide, and the guidance we will receive, and we will follow the guidance given. All of this is a large commitment to make – the seeking, the listening, the follow-through. Without such commitment, we are wasting our time and the Divine’s efforts.

The Divine does not simply tell us what we would like to hear. The Divine is not our fairy godmother there to grant our wishes. Guidance is simply that: “go this way and follow this path where it takes you.” Where it will take us is where the Divine wants us to go, to a destination we often cannot foresee, to an outcome we may not have selected.  It will likely not be an easy journey. Hence we should consider our request carefully before we ask. Yet we proceed on faith, sustained in trust.

We may be motivated by a specific, particular objective. But the Divine will respond by guiding us to a much greater objective, one that may seemingly bear little resemblance to our original desire. We will likely be shown only the next step from a longer-range plan invisible to our view. And sometimes even that next step may wait for a long period while the Divine is invisibly maneuvering on our behalf. We may feel we are bumping into closed doors one after another. Nothing seems to open up for us; our request for guidance seems to go unanswered.

It is hard for us to accept that no answer is our answer – for now. Answers are not just about good judgments, but also about good timing. The Divine will ultimately give us our full answer, but at the right time when we are ready to truly hear it and the Universe is aligned to respond to us. So there is a need for the virtue of patience – a virtue missing in many of us who want answers now. But the Divine works on its own timetable regardless of our impatience. The job of waiting is on us; the job of hurrying is not on the Divine.

When we seek out the assistance and guidance of the Divine, and hear back only silence, we need to hear the Divine Silence. We hear that silence, and thereby we move slowly and cautiously. It is a Divine Silence I have heard many times. Listening to answers that may not have yet fully arrived, but are on route. So we wait for the Divine clarity. Wait knowing that “God answers all prayers.”

“Clarity is learned by being patient in the presence of chaos. Tolerating disarray, remaining at rest, gradually one learns to allow muddy water to settle and proper responses to reveal themselves.” (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, #15)

© Randy Bell   2015       

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Truths

Truth is a wonderful thing.  When we discover a new truth, it can be exhilarating.  Or it can be alternately devastating.  The Truth is unchanged in either circumstance.  It is only our individual reaction to it that is the variable, different from one of us to another.

Truth is a comfort because it is inherently a Certainty for us.  We can achieve understandings wiithin that Truth, and thereby remove dreaded ambiguity that makes us so uncomfortable and unsure.  We often prefer to arrive at Truth “scientifically”: by logical deduction validated by experience and confirmed by consistent repetition.  Such a process appears to give a weight, a seeming substance, to what is actually a purely intangible idea.  But sometimes we arrive at Truth by intuition, inspiration, an unaccounted-for flash of insight.  Those Truths can yield a Certainty as strong as by any other process.  Certainty is an expectation we have from our Truth.  But Certainty is found to be an illusion.

In actuality, Truth exists in three categories.  There are Absolute Truths: true in all times and in all circumstances.  We like to believe that all of our Truths (beliefs) are in this basket, because it causes less disturbance, confusion and effort in our minds and simplifies going about our daily lives.  But thus far I have encountered only a very few Absolute Truths.  One is that if we are born, we will thereby die.  I have thus far seen no getting out of that causal relationship.  A second is that all life in any form does not live in a vacuum, but exists within an interconnected web of energies, forces and circumstances far beyond the individual being.  We may give many names and descriptions to this web, and the details of it may be maddeningly difficult to define, but that does not negate the larger web within which we exist.  These two truths make up a pretty short list of Absolute Truths.

Then there are the Relative (Circumstantial) Truths.  Given a particular set of circumstances, then this idea is true.  But change the circumstances, then what is true also changes.  A lot of science started out believed to be Absolute Truth, but the more we learned the more we realized that cause/effect were highly dependent on a particular set of circumstances and conditions –  rendering Truth to a very narrow series of statements rarely universally applicable after all.  Space exploration has broken apart many former “laws” of physics.  So too with moral codes.  The absolutism of “thou shall not kill” becomes very relative when family members are threatened.  “An eye for an eye” quickly collides with the admonition to be merciful and forgiving.  As much as we might prefer otherwise, Relative Truth is where most Truths are found.  Such Truths ae hard because they require us to engage in continual qualifying discussions about the impact of Circumstance upon our supposed Truths, to acknowledge the inexactness of our beliefs, and to listen to and explore other perspectives.

Lastly there are Timely Truths.  Those conclusions based upon what was known (and knowable), and seemed appropriate, at a particular point in time.  So it became a religious Truth that the sun revolved around the earth.  A geographic Truth that the world was flat and fell into nothingness at its edge.  A medical Truth that leeches sucking out our diseased blood would cure us.  All were truths believed at a point in time based upon what could then be known, yet were ultimately discarded by new knowledge and experience.  As many of our current beliefs will shock our children a hundred years from now.

We depend on our Truths to help maneuver us through the day.  We cling to our Truths to try to stabilize an unstable world.  We often use our Truths as the very basis and explanation of who we are (“my beliefs”); taking away our Truths is to take away our very Self.  Yet we come to learn that our Truths do not define who we are; who we are defines our Truths.  It takes ethical courage, inner curiosity, and humility – all very spiritual traits – to pursue a genuine search for Truth.  A search that is led by opportunities from Life directed by God’s hand.  Certainty is the looming sinkhole in the road always lurking to defeat that journey.

Truth is always in motion, just like all else in Life, best held with an “expiration date.”  Truth is continually blown apart and reshaped by the curious, questioning mind working together with reflective thinking.  Ultimately we realize that there is no permanent Certainty, only transition.  That Truths held too deeply limit us by becoming a static human being.  Truths held lightly free us to arrive at our next level of understanding, and guide us to find the being we are capable of becoming.

©  2015   Randy Bell