How does a mystic respond to the madness now roiling our country – violence, racism, climate disruption, genocidal wars, escalating terrorism, crushing poverty, economic inequality, endless disrespect, on and on and on? We are shaken by the horror of the world we are creating.

But consider this: Buddha, the awakened one, told us, “We are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” His words are as true today as they were twenty-five hundred years ago. The cycles of violence shattering our country arise from what we think and what our thinking leads us to do. How can an individual respond to this vast chaos?

It is not enough to change our thoughts for all thinking merely spins new cycles of thought and more reactivity. The ultimate answer lies in transcending thought altogether and moving back into our senses – even for just a few minutes. What we find when thinking ceases and the senses awaken is a world of beauty, wonder, mystery, and miracle. What we find if we are sincere enough to really look is the always-present sacred reality that our thought conceals.

In this world beyond thought, we discover a realm of silence, stillness, peace, joy and love. It is always here. It’s not hard to find unless we cling to our upsets and grievances. We are the problem. Stop thinking, heighten awareness, experience the world the way it really is, and become conscious of consciousness itself – the literal and tangible presence of the sacred. Then the thinking that arises will be sanctified with love. I offer you this poem by Pablo Neruda called Keeping Quiet. The answer lies here if we will take it. If we each honor his message of awakening from our self-perpetuating nightmare, how different the world could be. As John Lennon said, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Keeping Quiet

Pablo Neruda

Now I will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.


For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.


It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.


Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.


Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.


What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.


If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.


Now I’ll count to twelve

And you keep quiet and I will go.