I've deliberately saved the best for last. After all, what is better than touch? Can you honestly say that sight, sound, smell, or taste hold a candle to the ability to feel, and to be felt? Not likely.
Even so, all the senses work together. It's not like they're in some kind of fierce competition. Each plays its perfect part, and touch weaves them all together to form an ongoing experience of wholeness. It is this quality of wholeness that makes the essence of the human experience sublime. As horrifying, traumatic, diseased, or fragmented as things can seem to be in dark times, our center of inner silence remains wholly intact. That is the indestructibility of our Self.
I had an early childhood experience that confirmed the power of stillness in relationship to feeling and touch.
I was 8 years old, returning to my school classroom from a field trip. A group of us were shuffling off the bus in a hurried, excited fashion, as children tend to do. En route to the classroom, I was talking to a friend behind me, when I extended my hand forward to prop open the huge, metallic, self-closing door in front of us. My split attention between the ominous door and my lagging friend cost me big time. The door was slammed abruptly from the other side by another youngster who was unaware of my presence or movement. On my right hand, the tip of my ring finger somehow got wedged in between the hinge of the door. Snip! Off it went. The sheer velocity of the slam cut the tip off so efficiently that it was painless and only momentarily shocking. I screamed at the sight of blood gushing from my finger, simultaneously realizing that part of it was dismembered. But very quickly, I regained composure as the witness fully set in and took the injury in stride.
They rushed me to the hospital, and I soon made it to the operating table, where the surgeon was able to sew the severed piece back together (my teacher had retrieved it off the floor and placed it in a cup of ice). During the minor operation, I was only locally anesthetized in my hand, thereby allowing me to stay awake during the procedure. I got to watch the doctor re-attach the flesh. He said: "I've never seen anyone of my patients watch me like you're doing now. They usually look in the other direction." I didn't quite know how to respond to his observation. Though my detachment and calmness felt completely natural, at that age, I didn't yet have the context or vocabulary to describe my native state. Inner silence and meditation weren't exactly part of the curriculum in elementary school. So, I think I just shrugged my shoulders and remained quietly fascinated with the spectacle.
Of course, in the following weeks of healing, there was plenty of pain and childish shame I had to carry around, but underneath, the witness stayed persistent and unshaken. If only I had possessed the knowledge I have now, I could have maximized and deepened my native awareness then. But it would take decades of trial and error to find my way to the path of yoga and higher consciousness. Nevertheless, I had been undoubtedly touched by inner silence, and there were certainly other traumatic, childhood experiences in which the witness became so palpably present.
Fast forward to the present day, and the ball game is a little different. After chasing peace and ecstasy for over a decade via artificial means, now I'm healing from a different kind of injury: addiction to drugs and alcohol. The purification and opening is perpetually felt inside and out. Self-pacing is remarkably important. There is only so much I can handle, and the readiness of the nervous system has to be listened to as the guiding barometer. Sometimes it gets pretty fuzzy, since I can constantly feel the surrounding field of Being as the extended body of awareness. No more hiding nor denying the connection. Therefore, it's imperative that I am well-buffered by inner silence and a resilience in mind, body, and spirit. It's an art, and a science. And AYP is my favorite textbook.
May you, Reader, be touched by inner silence, in your own time, in your own way, in the good times and the bad.