“As an adolescent, I had a summer job working as a volunteer companion in a nursing home for the aged. … By the first day of actual patient contact, I was very anxious.
“My first assignment was to visit with a ninety-six-year-old women who had not spoken for more that a year. A psychiatrist ad diagnosed her as having senile dementia, but she had not responded to medication. The nurses doubted she would talk to me. … We would string beads together. …
‘I knocked on the closed door of her room. There was no answer. Opening the door, I found myself in a small room lit by a single window which faced the morning sun. Two chairs had been placed in front of the window. In one sat a very old lady, looking out. The other was empty. … I went to the empty chair and sat down.
“For awhile I tried to find a way to open a conversation. … The silence in the room was absolute. Somehow it just seemed rude to speak. Finally I gave up and just sat with with the basket of glass beads in my lap for the full hour. …
“Taking hold of the basket again, I prepared to leave. … Turning to the old women, I asked, ‘What are you looking at?’… Slowly she turned toward me and I could see her face for the first time. It was radiant. In a voice filled with joy she said, ‘Why, child, I am looking at the Light.’” ~Rachel Naomi Remen
Silence isn’t nothing. It is a thing in itself. Parents know that silence from an infant probably means trouble. Likewise with a puppy. With older people, it often means they are bored, depressed, or simply occupied with something and don’t want to talk about it. But when silence extends into days, weeks, even months, there may be a serious problem. In the elderly, this usually is interpreted as a form of dementia. Nearly all forms of odd behavior are considered dementia in the elderly. It often isn’t true.
We forget that in some parts of the world, and in some religions, it is not uncommon for a monk to take a vow of silence. Those who do so may go for years, even decades without speaking a word. The medical community does not label them as demented. They shouldn’t do with the elderly either.
Look at the Light
It was easy to assume the old woman was staring off into space unaware of what was happening. Silent because she didn’t even know she was being visited. But when asked a simple question instead of being treated like a demented person, she responded. She responded brilliantly.
When you are very old, you no longer have the luxury of pretending you will live forever. You know your physical body is mortal and will die soon. You learn to accept that. So idle chitchat no longer appeals to you. Perhaps knitting doilies or stringing beads also seems pointless. Some part of you now knows that the only thing that still matters is preparing your immortal spirit and soul for what is coming. And even if you have never been spiritual, you know that you need to turn to the light. The old woman wasn’t demented. She was wiser than her doctors.
We don’t know the woman’s background. Perhaps she had been a very religious person. Perhaps she had never concerned herself with death and the afterlife until she realized it was knocking at her door. What we do know is that she finally had tie wisdom to look at the light. Not just any light, of course. Not a flashlight. Not a lamp in her room. That would have been to no avail. She was looking at the light of the sun. Watching the sunrise. Doing what St. Francis was doing when he had his spiritual awakening. Looking at the sun that awakened Jacob Boehme, and many others. The sun the Essenes and Pythagoreans faced each morning at sunrise. They all knew they had to look at the Light.
Look at the Light of the Spiritual Sun
Looking at the light is good, but not all light is the same. Not even all light from the sun. That is because there is more than one sun. Beyond the physical sun, there is a spiritual sun. It is this spiritual sun that awakens the spirit and soul. There are benefits in gazing at the physical sun for the physical body (if done correctly and safely, of course), but to benefit the spirit and soul we must look to the spiritual sun.
And your attitude when looking at the sun matters also. If you are angry, sad, jealous, or otherwise in a negative state, you will get little benefit from the sun. You have to be at peace with yourself, with others, and with the world. That doesn’t mean you have to accept that everything that is happening in the world is acceptable. It means you know it is temporary and can be stopped. But the way to stop the evils in the world of materialism is not with more materialism. You have to awaken your spiritual faculties and help others do the same. That happens when you look to the spiritual sun with an open and peaceful mind and heart. Look at the light with a benevolent attitude and a desire to grow. Don’t wait, like the old women in the story until you are old and dying.
For more on spiritual Light, read these recent posts: