The following are comments Toni Packer made to students following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11. It seems to me that the questions she asks are relevant in all of life… not just during crisis.
Someone asked for a few words of advice for dealing with the torrent of emotions and confusion that is coming up in the wake of the horrendous explosions that shook many of us to the roots.
If possible, can we find a quiet moment in a quiet space in the midst of all the noise, agitation and confusion, a quiet spot in the eye of sadness and grief, pain, anger, and rage, the urge for revenge, and the longing for security to end all suffering? Can we listen silently to the contractions of fear, anger and the throbbing of longing for safety?
Can we listen ever more silently to the constant, agitated reactions to what we are witnessing on television or, live, in front of our eyes, thinking frantically about what could have happened, should have happened or ought to happen in response to it all? Can moments of calm presence reveal the turmoil of thinking and emoting, staying with it all without being completely taken over by it?
Can we come back time and time again, with infinite patience, to what is actually taking place right now, this very moment—the sadness and grief paining heart and mind, fear knotting the stomach and guts, anger making the heart pound faster, driving the blood to the head, and also hear the sound of rain and motor noises around us, see the brightness and darkness of the room, the sky, the smell in the air? Can we come back not just to the reactions to all of this, but simply perceive sounds and sights and the feel of what is actually taking place?
This stillness has room for everything happening on this earth—the good and the evil, the wounding, the helping and the healing, the dying and living, the hating, the killing and the inexhaustible love that transcends it all in a way too marvelous to comprehend.
The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive–it has nothing to do with time. It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure and pain. When self concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open. The mystery, the essence of all life is not separate from the silent openness of simple listening.
“The immense challenge to each one of us is this: Can we live our daily lives, at least for moments at a time, in the wonder of presence that is the creative force of everything?”
~From The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry
by Toni Packer