gentleness: “… gentleness, like grace, proclaims the presence of the Principle of all things…” ~ Pierre Hadot

gentleness amidon leaf flooating

Rumi’s life is fascinating and inspiring in many regards: the remarkable encounter with Shams, the subsequent absorption in “the mystical conversation (sohbet),” his inconsolable grief stemming from the disappearance of Shams … and then while trying to find him, Rumi’s grief ironically transformed into sheer joy (“madly drunk with the Divine”) … resulting from the simple – yet most profound – realization that he need not search at all … that That which he was searching for is {was} already here … in this moment! … and always!

Of course, Rumi spent the rest of his life (the last thirty years) uttering that profound truth through his poetry … revealing the infinite manifestation of The Mystery in (of) this moment.

This profound truth is expressed in most, if not all, traditions by various teachers – each in their own unique ways … and the key message simply comes down to stop searching … and be here now … a message that is not necessarily or easily “understood” by the receiver.

For most spiritual explorers, one of the key questions is : how to embody – or live – such truths?

Stillness Speaks purpose is to offer practical answers to such questions … answers that are not only easily understood but also can be undertaken on a daily basis in one’s everyday life … ideally using familiar qualities and/or actions.

And, in accordance with the Sufi principle (paraphrased), there as many ways to the Divine as there are beings in the Universe, we offer multiple perspectives on a particular topic, e.g., on this moment or presence we recently shared Joan Tollifson’s Why Sit Quietly? … or Mike Kewley’s How Every Moment Is Best

Turns out gentleness is such a quality! In the spiritual realm gentleness is a quality that is inevitably “encountered” – at some stage – both within ourselves (emerging, unfolding, and deepening) … and in others (perceived and/or experienced as such). As François Fénelon, the French Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer said: “… true spirituality … makes us conscious of a certain openness, gentleness, innocence, gaiety, and serenity …”

Elias Amidon – a master in the Sufi tradition, who has also deeply explored Theravada Buddhism, Native American, Christianity, Zen, and contemporary Dzogchen as part of his life long pursuit of spirituality – suggests that “… we can learn how to relax, how to open into openness, and how to simply be the presence of now, by following the scent of gentleness …”

Elias is a Pir (Spiritual Director) of The Sufi Way and has been “an initiate of the Sufi Way for the past 44 years.”

So, here is Elias on Gentleness … and how it can lead to presence …

Gentleness To Presence …

If we’re lucky, at some point in our life’s spiritual journey we may hear the news that the realization we’ve been seeking is already here in this moment.

Where? How?

We’re told: Just relax. Open. Stop doing anything. Stop searching for anything. Simply be the presence of now.

Guidance like this can be helpful, but it can also feel abrupt and bewildering. How do I relax in such a radical way? I can tell myself to relax and to open, but by what signs will I know the way? To simply be the presence of now without doing anything or searching for anything sets me adrift. What will help?

We can find a hint in response to these questions in the work of the 3rd Century Greek mystic, Plotinus. Plotinus often called God by the name “the Good” and recognized that the numinous reality of the Good is all-pervading and ever-present.

numinous reality gentleness amidon

Here he gives us his hint:

“The Good is gentle…and is always at the disposition of whomever desires it.”

Let’s hear that again: the gentleness of the Good is always at the disposition of whomever desires it. Pierre Hadot, the great French historian, describes it this way:

“Plotinus’ entire life consisted in the experience that gentleness, like grace, proclaims the presence of the Principle of all things.”

The guidance here is that we can learn how to relax, how to open into openness, and how to simply be the presence of now, by following the scent of gentleness. Gentleness is the sign and the assurance, and we can feel this “gentleness” spontaneously and directly in our body.

Try it. Next time you sit in meditation, doing your best to relax and to open, follow the gentleness. You’ll know it by its welcome. “There is a sun warmth inside, nurturing the fruit of your being,” Rumi tells us, “…a love-breath that lets you open infinitely.” Let its gentleness pervade your mind and heart and body. It’s already present so you don’t have to make it up.

sun shining tree amidon

If you feel stuck in old patterns of self-identity or nervousness, you can start by noticing the gentleness of your breath, especially how gently each breath appears and disappears so subtly. Let it assure you.

Gradually the gentleness of your very presence will reveal itself. Let that gentleness take you. Whatever stories, fears, or grief might trouble your daily life, whatever pains or depressions you may feel, give them to the gentleness.

The gentleness of the Good is not a thing. It’s more like a fragrance, a familiar love, a warmth, acceptance, safety. It’s completely kind. It’s why Sufis call it “the Friend.”

You might ask, “The Good, the Friend, this gentleness — do I have to believe in all this?”

I think it helps, at least to begin with. If you don’t naturally feel what this “gentleness” is, start by pretending you feel it. After a while it will be evident. Then believing won’t be necessary.

Toward the end of his life, Plotinus became increasingly aware of the importance of learning how to live our day-to-day life guided by our contemplation of “the gentleness of the Good.” As long as we’re embodied in this human form, he saw that our task is to bridge our experience of the purity of the Good with our experience of daily life. Gentleness is that bridge.

gentleness good amidon man helping older man

When we notice, for example, that we’re being judgmental, irritable, or out of rhythm, what happens? Through the very gentleness of our noticing, our irritability and self-preoccupation subside. We apologize. We become simpler, gentler.

Following the gentleness of the Good is indeed a simple and ancient ethic. The Vedas said it: Let all the world be my friend! Jesus said it: Love one another. The Dalai Lama said it: My religion is kindness. The Quran said it: “The servants of the Merciful One are those who walk gently upon the earth.”

In the turmoil of our times, learning to walk gently upon the earth, following the gentleness of the Good — by its grace we will find our way forward.

~ Elias Amidon

Elias’ writes a monthly Notes from the Open Path which are short contemplations on an approach to living wholeheartedly and in clear awareness (aspects of his Open Path teachings) … visit his website for more of his work: The Open Path – The Sufi Way.

The entire text of Gentleness above is authored by Elias and is excerpted from his March 2023 monthly email Notes from the Open Path (also available on his website). He has graciously given us permission to freely share these notes with our readers.

May you learn to walk gently upon this earth    … and …

May you remain safe and well.

François Fénelon’s quote from Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing, by Larry Chang (Author, Editor).
Images (edited and logos added): Featured and 1) Autumn leaf floating on the water by viperagp, 2) Elias Amidon’s image from his website with permission to use, 3) Colorful morning sunrise in the mountains by jojjik, 4) Sun rays through a tree by vokduy, 5) Happy african american man helping senior disabled man to get up from wheelchair on street by IgorVetushko. All purchased from depositphotos or 123rf and are for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


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