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Towards unity and creativity DANIEL O’LEARY

Everywhere and nowhere

It is communication that absorbs so much time in modern life. Periods of stillness are considered a luxury, yet those times of silent contemplation connect us with the earth and with God

desiccated. Without a harvest it had become a place of death. Then came the rumour of a Rainmaker. A last chance. The fittest were sent out to search for him. Blessed by the gods they found him and per- suaded him to return to their arid home. He listened carefully to their desperate story and then shuffled away into the local hills. After three days it began to rain. There was trans- formation all round. The smiles returned as bodies grew stronger, eyes began to shine as people danced to the greening of their fields. To thank the Rainmaker for his achievement, and to learn his secret should the calamity return, they searched for him again. “No,” he said to them, “I did not make the


rain fall. Things were out of order in this place. There was no inner peace in the people. Nature was affected. So was I. I waited here in the valley until once again I became part of the rhythm of life. When this happened the rain fell.” Too often we think that our inner spirit and

the ways of nature are separate phenomena, that they belong to different life forces. But there is only one source of being. In his com- mentary on this parable, Carl Jung writes: “When someone tells me that in his surround- ings the wrong things always happen, I say, ‘It is you who are wrong, you are not in Tao (the path of nature)…When one is in Tao right things happen.’” In Christian terms one might refer to the cosmic Christ, to a kind of Christ consciousness, the indwelling divinity that integrates, infuses and redeems the whole of creation, awakening and reconfiguring the human psyche and the ways of the universe into the one flow of grace. But what did the Rainmaker actually do to

find this universal rhythm of being? The story goes he breathed himself into a listening still- ness. Breathing and stillness. These are the contemplative spaces, he told them, in which the soul moves to the music of life in the pres- ent moment, in which authentic connections happen. It is in those spaces of connectedness that everything belongs – and the rain falls. Breathing is the very experience of life, of being, of unity – and of God. In his The Naked Now, Richard Rohr OFM explains that the name and nature of God can only be breathed. The correct pronunciation of the Hebrew “Yahweh” is an attempt to replicate and imitate

or three years there was a great drought in the village. The adults were emaciated, the babies listless, the animals skeletal, the countryside

the very sound of inhalation and exhalation. Notice what happens when you gently breathe in for “Yah” and out for “weh” a few times. It brings a sense of peace. It is the invisible life force that links all created things. The one thing we unknowingly do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the unifying name of God. This makes it our first and last word as we enter and leave the world. The baby arrives gasping for breath. She is gasping for life. She is gasping for God. The individual umbilical cord is broken only so that a more universal intimacy may begin. Our first breath, and every breath, brings us into deep and vital conversation with all beings and thus with the divine essence. In our breathing we are part of a common

body. We are the human lungs of God. And this experience of the sacred is open to all and sundry. It is the one precious connecting life- line we all share. It is our common bond. There is no Islamic or Jewish way of breathing. There is no religious or secular way of breath- ing. As far as I know there is no special Roman Catholic way of breathing. The winds that blow across the many playing fields of God are always utterly even. Breathing and stillness. Into what depths of stillness did the Rainmaker’s breathing lead him? He retired to the hard edges of the dying village so as to be still, to be rooted in his deepest self, confident in his own truest being, secure in his own capacity for loving

The ability to sit still is a rare gift at a time when texting and surfing are playing

havoc with our capacity for deep reflection

and being loved. For that he needed to be wholly at one with himself, stripping himself of his illusions every morning and evening of those three silent days. “If we connect with the stillness within, we move beyond our active minds and emotions, and discover great depths of lasting peace and contentment in universal serenity,” wrote Eckhart Tolle. The Rainmaker waited so as to become fully conscious and in tune, to reconcile, in himself, like Jesus did, a disin- tegrating village, a fractured humanity and a splintering universe.

And only then, in his relaxed but intense

awareness of his own being, and that of others, and of all Creation – only then did the rains fall. What Buddhists might call “right rela- tions” had been restored. What state must the human soul be in these times, when our world, our climate, our fragile balance between war and peace, is so deeply and universally out of kilter? For many reasons stillness is a lost grace. According to Ofcom, the media regulator, the average Briton spends more than seven hours each day hooked on gadgetry. And in his just-published The Shallows, Nicholas Carr mourns the loss of attention and con- templation in the wake of the mind-altering technology that has come into general use.The ability to sit still, he holds, is a rare gift at a time when texting and surfing are playing havoc with our capacity for deep reflection. “To be everywhere”, wrote Seneca, “is to be nowhere.” In Silence and Stillness in Every Season

John Main reminds us about the silent aware- ness that gives our spirit room to be free, room to breathe, saying: “In our modern world we easily forget that we have a divine origin, a divine source, and that this unifying incan- descent energy of our own spirit emanates from the Spirit of God.” Breathing and stillness. Paradoxically, it is where the dancing happens. It is always reach- ing out to release a vibrant vitality in all things. “We can make our minds so like still water”, wrote W.B. Yeats, “that beings gather about us so that they may see their own images, and so to live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life, because of our quiet.” The great task that confronts each one of us is to discover within ourselves our own potential for creativity and unity, for recon- ciling in ourselves all that is splintered and separated, for allowing the original oneness of God to happen again within and around us. As it was for the Rainmaker, for all great peacemakers, for Jesus and for all of us, the truly human heart is the divine catalyst of everything that has lost its place in God’s ori- ginal dream for the earth. In “Navigating the Abyss to Our True Self” Thomas Merton reminds us: “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?”

■Daniel O’Leary, a priest of the Leeds Diocese, is based at Our Lady of Graces Presbytery, Tombridge Crescent, Kinsley, West Yorkshire WF9 5HA.

2 October 2010 | THE TABLET | 13

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