Opposite Of Meditation Is Not Action, It's Reaction

Richard Rohr

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Awakin FeatureIt seems like our society is at a low point in terms of how we talk about challenging, controversial topics within our political discourse and even our spiritual reflections. I believe the only way through this polarization is a re-appreciation for silence.

Silence has a life of its own. It is not just that which is around words and underneath images and events. It is a being in itself to which we can relate and become intimately familiar. Philosophically, we would say being is that foundational quality which precedes all other attributes. Silence is at the very foundation of all reality—naked being, if you will. Pure being is that out of which all else comes and to which all things return.  Or as I like to say, Reality is the closest ally of God.

When we connect with silence as a living, primordial presence, we can then see all other things—and experience them deeply—inside that container. Silence is not just an absence, but a primal presence. Silence surrounds every “I know” with a humble and patient “I don’t know.” It protects the autonomy and dignity of events, persons, animals, and all created things.

To be clear, the kind of silence I’m describing does not ignore injustice. As Barbara Holmes explains: "Some of us allow [silence] to fully envelop and nurture our seeking; others who have been silenced by oppression seek to voice the joy of spiritual reunion in an evocative counterpoint. As frightening as it may be to “center down,” we must find the stillness at the core of the shout, the pause in the middle of the “amen,” as first steps toward restoration."

We must find a way to return to this place, live in this place, abide in this place of inner silence. Outer silence means very little if there is not a deeper inner silence. Everything else appears much clearer when it appears or emerges out of silence.

Without silence, we do not really experience our experiences. We are here, but not in the depth of here. We have many experiences, but they do not have the power to change us, awaken us, or give us the joy and peace that the world cannot give, as Jesus says (John 14:27).

Without some degree of inner and even outer silence, we are never living, never tasting the moment. The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction. We must wait for pure action, which proceeds from deep silence.

Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that pure action proceeds from deep silence? Can you share an experience of a time you were able to return to the core of the shout or the pause in the middle of your amen? What helps you stay grounded in primal presence?

Add Your Reflection:

13 Previous Reflections:

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    On May 28, 2020 Molly wrote:
    You must be selfish with the taking back of your time. It is the most valuable thing we have and yet we give it away to distraction so easily. Who cares what our society or culture says, it has no bearing on the way a person chooses to live. Who ever said I needed to be moving at the speed of light to be, what... successful? a person? worthy? We need to choose our passions carefully because that is where our hearts live. I choose to be selfish with my time (purpose in serving God) and generous with my love.

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    On May 21, 2020 Rhea Dsouza wrote:
    I really have been savouring thedistinction between saying my prayers..and Being prayerful... Saying the prayers is an Action..and is momentary..Being prayerful is a space to come from ..its a quality of Silence that holds ..other actions....and from a prayerful space..every and any action is ..Holy

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    On May 4, 2020 Sergio Fabbri wrote:
    I think it could be interesting to try to found a new language to talk about something that, using our current language, is in a sense unspeakable (as perhaps Wittgenstein would say).
    What here is called "silence" - that I perceive in a very active way - could be ambiguously meant as something thinkable just as a "place" where anything isn't there anymore.
    Instead, during meditation, what I agree to call "silence" - because of lack of a more proper term - is a very dynamic presence, an essence and not a mere background.
    I'm saying this even though I'm agnostic...
    Thank you for such inspirational words!

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    On May 3, 2020 Anabel Yurrita wrote:
    Es verdaderamente un tesoro alcanzado, quien encuentra el valor del silencio!!!!!
    ahi nos encontramos con nosotros mismos y con Dios...
    ahí es donde está la paz.....

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    On Apr 29, 2020 Jerard C. Lizares wrote:
    When I feel anger, stress and mostly all extreme emotions, I tend to be quiet when the feelings subside.Then I started to realized, after being true to that emotions, what comes next. Silence give me the answer because it helps me to put things in balance. Balance my emotions and thinking. Then it keeps me better because I know now where I'm moving on.

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    On Apr 28, 2020 Linda K Lyzenga wrote:
    "Some of us allow [silence] to fully envelop and nurture our seeking; others who have been silenced by oppression seek to voice the joy of spiritual reunion in an evocative counterpoint. As frightening as it may be to “center down,” we must find the stillness at the core of the shout, the pause in the middle of the “amen,” as first steps toward restoration." These words struck me to the quick. Grace washed over the fear & invited me to new awareness & broadened my perspective. Thank you!

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    On Apr 28, 2020 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    For tuning ourself with existence and know it in entirety, it is essential to shun all noise.
    Internal Silence thereof becomes a great facilitator for ourself to transform as an observer with capability to perceive totality.

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    On Apr 28, 2020 Pisha wrote:
    Actions after deep silence to me is accepting the situation and then taking the required action without any kind of negative emotions. Taking action with a peaceful state is mind.

    When I'm free from judgement or expectations, it helps silence my mind.

    When I'm shaping behavior in children, the results are so powerful and peaceful everytime I take action after silencing my mind. If take any action when there is still any kind of chatter in my mind then it completely becomes a very reactive environment.


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    On Apr 27, 2020 Neeru Johri wrote:
    Simply beautiful


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    On Apr 27, 2020 Tizz wrote:
    I am coming to love this "Being," silence. I am learning this truth deeply right now. My silent presence in my family's life, listening, is helping alleviate their stress. My silence and listening inside when recharging and connecting to Love allow me to act with love rather than react with fear. Something that is helping me reach this deep core of silence, even more, is qi gong. I'm saving this beautiful essay to read again, and sending it to friends. Thank you. ♥.

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    On Apr 25, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    As Richard Rohr says, silence is a primal presence. It can be very helpful in finding stillness, finding one's inner core, one's real self, one's connection to all that is or Being. Being can be found in silence, and we often talk or make noise to avoid being. I assume pure action is Being-based action, and pure action often proceeds from deep silence. All that said, nothing is always, and there are no guarantees. Pure action may also proceed from sound. Reality isn't just the closest ally of God -- Reality (or creation) is God incarnate. Silence, particularly inner silence, can help you realize that and can help you embrace your experience, and you can abide in inner silence even when there is no outer silence. When I am in the present and reflective or meditative, tuned in to what I am experiencing, I return to the core, the pause, the discontinuity. What helps me have times of being in the present is the peace and joy experienced in those times. What helps me is turn... [View Full Comment] As Richard Rohr says, silence is a primal presence. It can be very helpful in finding stillness, finding one's inner core, one's real self, one's connection to all that is or Being. Being can be found in silence, and we often talk or make noise to avoid being. I assume pure action is Being-based action, and pure action often proceeds from deep silence. All that said, nothing is always, and there are no guarantees. Pure action may also proceed from sound. Reality isn't just the closest ally of God -- Reality (or creation) is God incarnate. Silence, particularly inner silence, can help you realize that and can help you embrace your experience, and you can abide in inner silence even when there is no outer silence. When I am in the present and reflective or meditative, tuned in to what I am experiencing, I return to the core, the pause, the discontinuity. What helps me have times of being in the present is the peace and joy experienced in those times. What helps me is turning my attention inward and noticing what I am experiencing in the moment.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Apr 24, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Sadly, the world we live in has a little time to slow down and has a little time to be silent. Both our outer world and our inner world has a little time to pause, see, listen and contemplate. Both worlds are largely filled with little space and time for emptiness and silence. This essay reminds me of a wise saying stated by the great Indian spiritual teacher Shankaracharya: Gurostumaunamvyakhyanam, shishyastuchinnaha samshayaha. The teacher observes the silence and the doubtsof the students get dissolved. The teacher is within us. In order to make wise and pure choice and take wise and pure actions, deep inner silence is essential. My father taught us to be silent by repeating the Sanskrit word Shantihi-Peace- three times. When we asked him why three times, he mentioned Peace within-intrabeing, peace between-interbeing, and beyond both- Transcendental being. Over the years I have learned the power of practicing pause as stated by Victor E.Frankl:" Between stimulus and response t... [View Full Comment] Sadly, the world we live in has a little time to slow down and has a little time to be silent. Both our outer world and our inner world has a little time to pause, see, listen and contemplate. Both worlds are largely filled with little space and time for emptiness and silence. This essay reminds me of a wise saying stated by the great Indian spiritual teacher Shankaracharya:
    Gurostumaunamvyakhyanam, shishyastuchinnaha samshayaha. The teacher observes the silence and the doubtsof the students get dissolved. The teacher is within us. In order to make wise and pure choice and take wise and pure actions, deep inner silence is essential. My father taught us to be silent by repeating the Sanskrit word Shantihi-Peace- three times. When we asked him why three times, he mentioned Peace within-intrabeing, peace between-interbeing, and beyond both- Transcendental being.

    Over the years I have learned the power of practicing pause as stated by Victor E.Frankl:" Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." Only reading and understanding is not enough. The knowledge needs to be translated into action and practiced in our daily life, in our daily action. It is our light house-guiding our way of living truthfully and compassionately.

    In order to live truthfully and compassionately I practice Mindfulness Meditation. It is my daily spiritual practice. I consider it my Dharma. It keeps me rooted and grounded. This daily spiritual practice helps me to stay grounded in primal presence, primal silence,primal consciousness. This is my way of relating to me and others on a daily basis. Each day is a silent day, a spiritual day, a day of awakening and a day of serving.
    Namste!
    JagdishP Dave




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    1 reply: Pisha | Post Your Reply

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