I was at the site of Three Sisters in Blue Mountains at Katoomba last week. It was a perfect autumn day only a couple of degrees warmer than the April average. The place was brimming with weekend tourists who came to enjoy the spectacular beauty of nature and capture those moments forever, to tick off the bucket list. People were crowding onto the vantage points that will give the perfect backdrop with their iPhone cameras stuck on selfie sticks. Loud chatter and laughter crudely intercepting and disturbing the deep silence echoing from the surrounding mountains and the thick forest below. The human sounds were quickly absorbed by the vastness of these magnificent structures – millions of years old – rugged, jagged, carved as they took in zillions of stories thrown at them – noisy stories of awe, wonder, marvel, preoccupation etc.
What is the urgency we experience to vocalize our feelings? Is it because the sheer beauty takes our breath away? or is it because we are afraid that we won’t remember if we don’t audibly gasp? Or is it because we are so competitive that we have to one up the others in our expressions?
Anyway, I was surrounded by all that when all I wanted to do was absorb the silent strength emanating from the Three Sisters that stood facing the sheer flat walls of the other mountains like they were in the witness stand in the court facing the jury.
My husband put in $ 2.00 into the binoculars and we had a closer look at the three independent monuments standing almost holding hands to support each other so they can withstand the jury. Why were these three peaks separated from the rest? The $2.00 ran out within thirty seconds.
I turned around from the binoculars and started walking to another spot to get a different view. As I was walking there, I saw in one corner of the railing was a lady in a hijab, knelt on a newspaper, hands folded, eyes closed. I saw that she had a newspaper pinned to the railing creating a blank wall between her and the vision beyond of the majestic mountain range.
She was performing her afternoon duty as called by her religion. People were walking around her, falling silent out of respect as they went past her. Nobody gave a second glance. The sun was shining brilliantly and the skies were crystal clear blue. There was a slight breeze which made the day very pleasant.
I was dumbstruck. May be I am judgmental. Whilst I admire and respect her discipline to maintain a prayer regime to specifically connect with God at certain times regardless of circumstances as called by her Religion or any other Religious mandates for that matter, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself – ‘Open your eyes lady, Is your God only behind those closed eyes in that blank paper? Is God not around you staring back at you through the soft ruggedness of this wilderness, through the jagged edges of the rough yet smooth, strong big mountains? Why is there a need to show your piety to something special than what you are surrounded by? Drink it in with all your senses, merge with it, blend through it. Don’t separate yourself from God surrounding you.’
Is human love towards Divine so compartmentalized and so selective that we are capable of ignoring the Divine present all around us and instead worship our chosen form of God or formless God (as per our religious affiliation) with selected verses of prayer handed down to us that begs to relieve the pain we cause to ourselves through our ignorance?
How can we show reverence to our chosen form of Divine and worship that but not worship Her creation manifest in everything we enjoy through our senses?
How can we close our eyes to that fact that we are part of this creation that is screaming Divinity in its majesty?
Walking along the trail that led to the watching deck on one of the Three Sisters, I noticed tossed coke cans and plastic rubbish littering the base of the trees below.
Are we so filled with self-importance that we have the need to leave our presence in disturbingly contrasting colors of red and white against the surrounded hues of various shades of green and brown?
Do we have to so loudly proclaim our separate identity? What is this arrogance that forces us to think we are superior in front of the mightiness that is standing so humbly?
My heart ached for those peeks that are grandly displaying that – In silence there is strength; In humility there is mightiness; In witnessing there is compassionate understanding.
When do we learn to stop isolating God with a calcified reverence as that with a distinct form, shape and thought created by our narrow minds, there to answer our specific prayers to preserve our mortality?
Do we have the capacity like the mountains to let the tears of our pain erode the tough edges of our personality recognizing the oneness in all and thus becoming softly carved beauties of compassion?
How do we constantly remember that God has created ‘us’, ‘them’ and ‘it’ as well. Is there an inch of space on this planet where God is NOT present?
How do we get there?
When we live with complete awareness that God is ‘in me, below me, above me, behind me, next to me, and around me’ wouldn’t we be living with reverence witnessing the pain and pleasure carrying principles with equanimity and discernment, separating the actor from the actions, recognizing the Divine in the actor whilst playing the role allocated in the drama to act on the actions?
To live in that complete awareness, we need a new prayer.
What would that new prayer be?
It would be asking ourselves with total honesty and purity for a felt understanding and knowing that we are part of the mighty mountains and the deep oceans, that we are the same elements that make the nature around us and all the sentient beings in it.
We need to repeatedly ask of ourselves to recognize and accept with an urgency that the ‘Sacred’ is in us as much as is in everything and everyone else.
This acceptance and understanding and the continuous reminder as a result of the new prayer will help us to live as compassionate witnesses of the Sacred – grandly playing the dichotomies of life. Our reverence will then be alive all the time under all circumstances – not reserved to select time and space bound ideas of Divinity and its worship.
Let us write that prayer and live it with a sense of urgency because in there lies the power of transformation.
Here is an example of such prayer I came across even as I was finishing writing this piece – Synchronicity – you bet. Here it is by Nadia Colburn from the On Being blog
“At the Shopping Mall
Dear God, teach me how to
Teach me that you live not
only in the open field,
the birds singing at first dawn,
but also in the concrete
of the Everett Mall, in the
neon lights of Old Navy,
in the wires crossing the open
Teach me in sadness and anger
in frustration and fear.
The cars speed down the
Their tires spin, spin.
There is so much
work to do. So much activity.
Dark oil flows over the land
as over a great Greek feast.
how to praise your whole body.”
Yes, we need to learn how to pray not just to praise the whole body of God, but to recognize God in the whole of creation including in us and in every being in it.
Until next time
With Love and Respect