by Gussie Fauntleroy
Lee Temple: The healing power of quiet
There are several powerful, interrelated aspects to the experience of living in a very quiet place, Lee Temple believes. And together they can create a positive feedback loop that leads to personal and global healing.
Temple, a thoughtful 54-year-old retired architect, educator and musician—now a sustainability advocate and writer working on his first book—moved to Crestone from Ithaca, New York with his wife Carol in 1993.
Having grown up in Baltimore, the absence of man-made sound initially struck Lee as acoustic emptiness. But this perception soon changed. “I discovered early on that the quiet we encounter here is one of the key elements of our genius loci, the spirit of our place,” he relates. “I remember vividly the morning I first heard an extraordinary sound framed against the Valley’s vast stillness—the call of a flicker. I thought, wow, there’s a wonderful sound to the quiet here.”
Since then he has come to appreciate the multiple dimensions and implications of living in this naturally quiet landscape. Among them: spaciousness, visual beauty and the atmosphere’s clarity and openness, all of which can create a fertile space for possibility and change.
“Ancient traditions recognized this, and had people go out into the desert for visions and healing. Among such precious attributes, natural quiet can especially support transformational change and bestow a rare gift—peace of mind,” he says. “Eventually, after prolonged immersion, the external quiet can work its way deep within us, providing still further gifts. Peace of mind allows us to peel away layers of inner challenge and eventually fosters an integration, a true sense of wholeness.”
For Lee, finding focus in Crestone over the past two decades has included designing and building a comfortable, low-carbon-footprint homestead with a grid-tied photovoltaic system that sells power back to the electric co-op. “Like Crestone’s many other environmental champions, we’ve lived such a healing process first-hand in our nesting and peaceful participation here,” he reflects.
These days Lee’s time is filled with his garden, consulting and his book in progress, The Inherent Unity of All Things: Healing the World with Mindfulness, Understanding and Loving Kindness. “We now need—and have—an opportunity for a trans-cultural awakening of the primal singular consciousness, a shift into the shared experience of the inherent unity of all things,” he explains in the book’s introduction. “Our eerily warmer weather makes it ever clearer that we must finally unite to heal our world, while we still can.”
This ambitious aim has a powerful ally in the quiet of a place like Crestone, he believes. “This may seem like an obvious truism, but people with embedded inner quiet tend to live more quietly. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, ‘Don’t just do something, sit there!’ In other words, living more quietly can translate directly into greater care for the earth, a presencing of peace and calm in the face of worldly anxiety and turmoil, and even to a reduced ecological footprint.”
It is a spiritual and environmental mandate whose urgency is made even more evident by such events as the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. In the context of the world today, individual healing cannot be separated from a healing of families, communities, society and the earth itself, Lee observes.
“Rather than imposing our will on the natural world once again and obliterating her precious gift to us, here we have a rare and priceless opportunity to learn the Way of Quiet: the natural way of healing for self, others and the world.”
Rebecca Thomas: Quiet as an everyday retreat
From a Baptist childhood in rural south Georgia to spiritual teachers including Hopi elders, an Amazonian shaman and the Dalai Lama, Rebecca Thomas has “spiraled the wheel,” as she puts it, to find the common center of the world’s wisdom traditions. And what she has found is that within that center is silence, the unfathomable silence of peace.
So in moving to Crestone in late 2009—after 18 years in Durango and then four years of travel, much of which was spent in India and in silent retreat—the inner quiet Rebecca had been cultivating has found its counterpart in the external quiet of this place.
“It seems that all the high teachings culminate with Be Still. The Kingdom is within,” she points out. “And in stillness, in just stopping all effort, all doing, all defining, one awakens to the deepest truth of who one really is.”
Rebecca first heard about Crestone some years ago from a Guatemalan man she met on retreat. Later, when a Tibetan rinpoche stayed at Rebecca’s home, Maia Dercum (living in Durango at the time) attended his teachings. When Maia moved back to Crestone, she invited Rebecca to come and stay in her yurt for month-long personal retreats, which Rebecca did each spring and fall for several years.
“It was so quiet, whatever arose out of the silence was just palpable,” Rebecca remembers, her china blue eyes smiling against a tanned face and wavy white hair. “It was a wonderful metaphor for Buddhism, where the emptiness teachings help one see that emptiness is not empty, but rather, it is full of every potential for manifestation. Similarly, silence contains the potential for every sound.” She adds that while she doesn’t identify her spiritual perspective with any one “ism,” the Buddhist approach turns out to be a synthesis of all that she has absorbed in the past 30 years.
“I’ve always longed to be in nature, and I realized later that what I was seeking was the silence nature provides, not just the beauty,” she reflects. “If there weren’t (external) silence, for me it wouldn’t be as easy to be quiet inside.” Paradoxically, the other time in her 57 years thus far when becoming still inside was easiest was amidst the bustle, noise and chaos of India.
“I knew India would push all my buttons and you have to deal; there’s no running away. Inner stillness was the only way to move through the chaos,” she explains. Similarly, decades earlier during another intense period in her life, she also found herself enveloped in a moment of unexpected hush. At 13, she was in a serious car crash that left her in the hospital for a month. While lying in bed she experienced a vision of a “gorgeous, formless being of light. I called it an angel because that was my upbringing,” she relates. “It felt like I had crossed over to another realm and tasted the divine.”
It is the middle ground, the everyday world between extremes of noise and quiet—driving down a familiar street or pushing a cart in a grocery store aisle—where it’s hardest to maintain an inner space of silence, she observes. Now, in her new home, palpable quiet is becoming the everyday.
“I’m experiencing it for longer expanses at a time, and that’s new to me,” she acknowledges. “It’s a walking meditation. I don’t need to do or say anything; I can just be part of the is-ness: No Rebecca, no coffee cup!” She smiles. “I feel supported in that; it’s tremendously embracing and nurturing. If I’m outside here in this stillness, I just feel like I’m full, I’m fed. What more could I want?”
(This is an article in the continuing series on “quietude”, exploring the importance of the vast subject of quiet, sound and noise. If you are interested in contributing to this series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)