Shhhh… It’s hard to talk. Challenging to write. I haven’t spoken a word aloud for twelve hours since 6:30 this morning when Barry left to fish at the Otter Lake Fishing Tournament.
The phone never jangled. No music played (oh, except for Desperado by the Eagles for three minutes in the morning.) No TV. Nothing except…silence. And it has felt so…darn….good.
On other silent days I might fill the space with lots of computer time, chatting hither and yon on-line, babbling like a brook in spring. But today I turned off the computer after a short while reading and commenting on blogs. Turned, instead, to face the silence and listen to what it might say.
It is interesting to contemplate silence. It is equally interesting to find oneself suddenly and unexpectedly within a silent day, with no intention of doing so.
Especially if one has been reading “Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence” by Anne D. LeClaire. This little book came at Christmastime, a gift from my daughter. (Of course, I asked for it.)
The inner book cover says: “Anne D. LeClaire has practice total silence on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month for 17 years. By detaching herself from the bustle of her hectic lifestyle and learning to listen to her deepest self, she has found a center from which to live–one that tests, strengthens and heals her. In practicing silence, she has discovered her own secret garden–a cloistered, sacred, private place where true personal growth is possible.”
She shares the many teachings of silence in her memoir. The value and depth of it. But also the shadow sides of silence, where silence is used to alienate, wound, stifle, separate.
From “Compost: Confronting the Messy Space Within” to “Boneyard: Surrendering the need to be right” the essays explore lessons learned from silence.
I have been silently reading one essay a day since the beginning of 2010, inviting myself to listen deeper than the noisy thoughts and voices at the surface. It is proving a valuable quest.
Synchronistically enough, my friend Amy pointed toward her Benedictine Oblate Blog where she shared some thoughts about silence. In Many Kinds of Snow, Many Kinds of Silence she ponders the many kinds of stillness.
“It’s easy to see why some fear silence, because it can evoke a little death. In the absence of conversation, of immediate feedback from other human beings, we can start to feel as if we don’t exist. We aren’t mother, father, child, partner, lover, friend . . . we aren’t successful on the stage of anyone’s life, professionally or personally . . . we are brought back to the steady THERENESS of the world and its quite indifference to us.”
She points toward the other kind of silence, that which awakens our sense of interconnectedness with all of creation and muses: “But I suspect we often come to know the radiant sort of silence when we’ve stayed put for a time with the impersonalizing, absent sort of silence.”
Today silence seems to be teaching me the value of not multi-tasking. The value of doing one thing at a time. The value of sitting quietly while these photographs upload. Instead of frantically rushing between email and other on-line sites, I simply rest. Listen to the humming of the woodstove. Watch the darkness descending upon the land. Feel peacefulness like a warm blanket enveloping inner lands where too much noise and chatter sometimes create stress.
Anne LeClaire quotes musician Artur Schnabel: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists,” he said, “But the pauses between the notes–ah, that is where art resides.”
I would simply add that perhaps the pauses between our daily busyness and thoughts might be the place where peace resides. Where sanctuary exists. Where the world is made right once more…