Tsültrim Allione writes: “I was at a lunch with the Dalai Lama and five Buddhist teachers at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. We were sitting in a charming room with white carpets and many windows. The food was a delightful, fragrant, vegetarian Indian meal. There were lovely flower arrangements on the table.
“We were discussing sexual misconduct among Western Buddhist teachers. A woman Buddhist from California brought up someone who was using his students for his own sexual needs. One woman said, ‘We are working with him with compassion, trying to get him to understand his motives for exploiting female students and to help him change his actions.’
“The Dalai Lama slammed his fist on the table, saying loudly, ‘Compassion is fine, but it has to stop! And those doing it should be exposed!’ All the serving plates on the table jumped, the water glasses tipped precariously, and I almost choked on the bite of saffron rice in my mouth.
“Suddenly I saw him as a fierce manifestation of compassion and realized that this clarity did not mean that the Dalai Lama had moved away from compassion. Rather, he was bringing compassion and manifesting it as decisive fierceness. His magnetism was glowing like a fire.
“I will always remember that day, because it was such a good teaching on compassion and precision. Compassion is not a wishy-washy ‘anything goes’ approach. Compassion can say a fierce no!”
– Tsültrim Allione, from her book Wisdom Rising
Is it discernable to the human ear? I say it is. I say it is all of the above and much, much more. I say the sound of God’s voice is all around us.
It is in the chirping of the birds at daybreak. It is in the soft cooing of a mother to a baby. It is in the agonizing weeping of sorrows and loss. It is in the rushing waters of rivers and streams.
God’s voice is found in the hushed whispers of breezes dancing through the trees; in the rhythmic meter of little frogs singing in chorus at eventide from the surface of the pond.
But God voice is found other places as well; places we think not, places that offend us and disturb us.
It is found in the trembling truths that fall from the mouths of alcoholics and addicts finding and seeking a new way of life. It is found in the death knell sucking sound of cocaine and heroin entering the body and the gurgling of the last breath of an overdose or suicide. It is found in the screams of a child cowering in a corner. It is found in the begging and pleading of a young woman being trafficked.
God’s voice is found in a myriad of places, some comforting, some disturbing. God’s voice is found in the sacred text of old that perpetually points us towards our Creator and each other. God’s voice is found out on the streets and in the mountains.
I feel that in all ways, and things, God’s voice is constantly saying through life, the rooms of recovery, the streets, the people next to us, Nature and all that exists, “come, be with Me, be with Me in all the places I am to be found.” Other times Gods voice is saying “stop this, help that one, be with this one, listen to the other, fix this, heal that, challenge the darkness and shine the light.”
It is not always what God is saying that is crucial for us, for it is. But what is more important is the truth that God is speaking to us, here and now, in this moment.
So where do you hear God’s voice? And what is being said?
“We hunger to be known and understood. We hunger to be loved. We hunger to be at peace inside our own skins. We hunger not just to be loved but to love…
-Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons
People in recovery often talk about addiction as a disease of “More” – a nagging persistent hunger to fill a void. I can say from my own life, even long before addiction became a part of my story, I felt this hunger. Some call it the “God” hunger, others a byproduct of our addictive natures. Me, well, I’m not one to think that all the “more” I hunger for is either negative or dangerous.
I hunger for more of many things. I hunger for more of God and all that is sacred and divine to me. I hunger for a deeper connection between my work and my calling. I hunger for more community and intimacy as well – the place (community) and the space (intimacy) for being known as I truly am.
We live in a world that confuses intimacy with communication and isolation become the defiant denial. How can I be “isolated” when I have 600 “friends” on Facebook, while simultaneously saying “how can I be lonely when I have 600 friends on Facebook?”
I suffer from a brain disease that is also a disease (dis-ease) of extreme isolation and paradox. I got drunk and high to feel good – good enough about myself to be part of the crowd. Alcohol is called liquid courage for a reason – it gave me to courage to overcome my inner discomfort and instead gave me the illusion that I fit in, drunk.
I confused people at the bar knowing my name and my drug dealer being on speed dial with community and intimacy.
But I do believe that authentic community is the answer. We see it time and again that people who have found healing from disaster, disease, and despair have done so most often by finding others who have gone through similar experiences and found healing in some form of community.
Community is the answer; the answer to the disease of isolation and to living in a country that esteems rugged individualism as a zealous ideal for emulation.
Community is where I find healing and hope. But far from a utopian ideal, I know that life in community with wounded people is never easy or tidy; far from it. Community, like most of recovery, is messy. Community, like recovery, needs grace to seep into the broken and wounded cracks all of us carry.
In a world gone mad for the instant gratification of a digital economy, one where “attention” is as strong a currency as money, the road of intimacy and community is a path one can seek and hold to for roots.
Community is the place where we can be real. The digital world is an illusion of code, of ones and zeroes that are a mere fabrication of intoxicating glitter. Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses but I believe our addiction to our phones and Facebook and Amazon prime are the new opiates running concurrent to the substance addiction epidemic.
But I still believe in the healing power of community as the space where I can hunger for more and in small ways and deep ways not only find my soul but find it sated as well.