We enter the spiritual path because of a calling, a call from within. If we understood the call well, it should make us hopeful, even ecstatic, like the drunk who danced himself out of the gutter when he learned that the king knew his name. Paradoxically, though, the call first makes us restless, dissatisfied and unhappy. Give thanks for that dissatisfaction; without it we would slumber on, lost in dreams that will have no meaning when consciousness at last arises from its burial in the earth.
If we blame our unhappiness on external conditions, then the door to the inner life has not yet opened. The voice is calling us, but we do not know where it is coming from; therefore we look at what is familiar, thinking that more possessions, more status, or more leisure will soothe away our discomfort. But external conditions change; there is no lasting satisfaction in the outer world. Even if we could somehow secure a life that is agreeable in every way, the hour would arrive when we must leave this world, and our ‘happiness’ would be broken. True and lasting happiness can only be found within, in the inner world.
Once a well-known Sufi came to a city and gave a talk. A woman was listening, and afterward said to him, “You have perfected the art of rhetoric. Have you also perfected the art of silence?” These words struck the Sufi so deeply that from that moment he gave up speaking.
Have we learned the art of silence? What keeps us from recognizing the inner reality is the constant chattering of the mind and the relentless babble of emotions all churned to a froth by the ego. In the midst of such turbulence, who can hear the subtle, silent music of the sea of life?
Silence is learned not only in closing the lips, but in stilling the voice that is busy relating everything to the empty throne of the imaginary king, ‘I’. The Sufis have said that to advance on the spiritual path, the mureed must become before the Spirit of Guidance like the corpse that is being washed for burial. Let Guidance wash you, then, of your analyses, your agendas, your measurements, and your claims. Be silent, so you may hear what is offered. Be empty, so that you may be filled.