In Praise of Silence

I love silence.  Silence is the oil that lubricates my wheels, the store from which all my love comes, the well from which my inspiration springs.

The noisy world never stops shouting out, calling, making us laugh or cry, seducing us with its messages and the apparent comforts of company.  All that hullabaloo, which is wonderful and part of life, but not all there is.  And our minds chatter away, giving us a constant commentary on how we are doing / what that person really meant when they said that / how things are going / how they might be better / how they might be worse / things we have to do / things we have already done, but haven't left behind.  Such a lot of noise.

We used to know silence; we used to live without phones ringing and televisions entertaining, without cars roaring, aeroplanes rumbling and even the wireless had its silent times.  Not so long ago... In our grandparents' childhoods this was.

We used to walk in the hills and be able to hear the small things: the rustle of a creature in the undergrowth, the birds calling to each other in their busyness, bees humming, leaves whispering in the wind, our own footsteps on the ground, our hearts beating, the sound of our breath constantly touching the rest of the world, the murmur of our souls.

In those days we didn't have to consciously decide to leave our phones behind, because there was no phone to take, we were out there alone and nobody that wasn't alongside us could reach us, but God could.  God as I see it, what the Upanishads call That - That beauty, That air, That which is everywhere, That which we are made of, although we might forget.  That which is easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of a busy life, That which is drowned out by the louder, harsher noises in the world.

Nowadays silence is not gifted to us and we have to choose it deliberately.  We have to seek it; ask for it; find it; make space for it in our lives. 

Silence is your friend.  In silence is where you find out who you are and what you want/think/feel.  How can you learn to listen to the rhythms of your soul if you are always drowning it out with other noise?  In silence is where your peace of mind lives.  In silence is where you find that you can say, 'YES' to the world and everything in it.  In silence you will find your own true voice, the things that you think are important, the places you want to be, the stuff you want to do; freed from the clamouring voices of other people's opinions and ideas (be they from loved ones, foes or advertising billboards), in silence is where you meet yourself face to face.

I entreat you to seek out silence in your life; to make for yourself a space for quietude.  Some of you are going to find it difficult, that gentle unwinding of yourself: those of you who have forgotten how to be still will have to relearn the skill; those of you who think that not doing anything but being quiet is a waste of time, will have to find a way to be kinder to yourselves; those whose minds are loud with thoughts will need to find a way to watch those thoughts with a gentle attitude (the silence will help you to find a way to settle them, given time); those who have been using noise as a way to run away from yourselves, will have to take heart and meet yourself with as much tenderness as you can muster.

Silence is a gift that we have forgotten about; it is where all the great spiritual teachers found their inspiration and their solace.  The quieter you become, the more you hear.  Listen; your life is trying to tell you something.


Further Reading
A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland



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