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Sunday, July 17, 2016

The practice of silence

Entering Silence

A silence that is like a lake, a smooth and compact surface. Down below, submerged, the words are waiting. And one must descend, go to the bottom, be silent, and wait.”
Octavio Paz (The Bow and the Lyre)

One of the best things about being up at dawn is the absence of human noise. In the right place, one can hear only birdsong, insects trilling. In silence, we begin the day by reconnecting with ourselves, our environment, and nature itself. Taking time for silence, especially inner silence, in the early morning sets a calm tone for the rest of the day.

It's very hard to find quiet in our modern world, especially if you are a city dweller. I live in a residential neighborhood which, by seven o'clock, is already full of leaf blowers and lawn mowers. The houses are close enough that the central air conditioners are audible house to house. In the near distance, trains blare their whistles every few minutes. Even so, last night, over strains of music boiling up from the taverns down the hill, I heard owls calling to one another. In that moment, there was connection.

The other constant noise in our world is talking. Talking and talking, so often saying nothing of substance. “Hi, how are you? Fine, thank you, and you? I'm doing just great. Have a nice day. You, as well.” We have an endless chain of rote “non-communication” that says nothing and connects us with no one. In the meantime, we have left behind other more potent forms of communication, like eye-contact, a smile, a touch. I like, at least in theory, the Quaker practice of being silent until spirit moves you to speak.

Creating for oneself islands of silence—taking vacations from talking—may be the best mental and spiritual health tonics of all. Taking time everyday for inner silence, whether through meditation, or listening to nature, reconnects body and soul. It might be a good Sabbath practice.

                                                            In the Spirit,

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