A regular non-conversational period, without things or distractions, is essential in our everyday lives. It’s not something we can just “weekend”. It’s why Jesus is constantly bolting off somewhere — to the mountains, to the desert, out in a boat rowing on the Dead Sea alone, leaving the crowds on the shore to reclaim his core through silence. And have people not heard it enough on this blog that the very last decision that Jesus made as a FREE MAN was — as the authorities were on their way to apprehend him — was to choose silence in Gethsemane, alone. No strategising with his disciples, these useful idiots.
He chose to spend his last freedom — before the intense obligations to come — in the garden.
A close student of mine wakes up at 5:50 am every day of the week to do her meditation practice. This is not easy for someone moving in Greek society, with its late dinners and social engagement. She does her 108 bows, and then she goes out to the little garden adjoining her meditation room. She moves quietly on the crunchy gravel in the semi-darkened bluishness of indigo dawn light, watering a few things, checking on a tomato growing here or there. It’s no heavy effort. She is merely engaging with nature’s voice without needing to use form or her own voice to converse freely there. Though she will always do the chanting program which we use in our Zen Center, that quiet and awareness among stems and leaves and flowers opening in her little courtyard garden might take the place of her doing any formal sitting meditation that day. And why not? Nothing is being “not done” or substituted — just another access point to Moment is engaged.
Silence is key. Silence is the highest scripture, the holiest liturgy. And by silence we are not talking about some artificial absenting or blocking of sound, but rather a natural, soft, non-egoic return to the default normal of whatever Moment is, without adding anything else dusty in there. When we let the breath be our guide to stillness, then the noise that continues in the head stands astounded before this vastness of silence, and eventually lowers its head before that in repose. Having regularity and consistency will burn this into the neural wiring and make it automatic. It is notable that Andrew Huberman encourages often that neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change and adapt and optimise better — is enhanced after some sort of physical exertion. And that is why it helps our practice to start every day in the Zen Center and at home — like my student — with prostrations (or some sort of yoga, on one’s own), oxygenating the neurone with rhythmic breathing, clearing away the cobwebs of the dream-space of sleep, before engaging the awareness of chanting and/or sitting meditation.
This is the place at the core of life.