Sunday, September 07, 2008

stillness

"It is an act of resistance
to abstain from
unimportant conversation
and
thoughtless communication."

seed head

One thing that I learned about during my recent break is stillness. On a 5-day retreat at the end of the break, I discovered a very deep well of stillness and peace inside myself, something that I really didn't know was there. At the retreat they taught us practices like meditation to access that stillness. I also learned to practice silence, meaning to abstain from speaking for a certain period of time, which could be an hour, a day, or even a few days. I read about someone who pursued a year-long practice of silence. I chose to practice silence for one day.

Before trying this, it was very hard to imagine what it would be like if my mind were less full of distractions. My mind is always full of distractions. Even in yoga class, I am frequently working through a problem, creating a grocery list or fretting over something I might have done wrong.

When I feel lonely, silence is very challenging. In those times I frequently turn on the radio, or chatter at Simon (our cat). I do really enjoy being quiet together with someone I'm close to, like HWWLLB, my sister, or another close friend. It's so wonderful to spend time with someone that is so comfortable, you don't need to fill up the space with sound.

Here's something I wrote in my journal during my day of silence:

"It seems that I can hear a lot more - ambient sounds, as well as what people are saying - and I understand better, maybe because I am listening more simply and not trying to formulate a reaction."

I've found since then that this is a lasting effect. It has become easier for me to listen well to other people, and I think that if I were to practice a day of silence regularly - perhaps once a month - my world would continue to change and deepen this way. I'd really like to try.

What kinds of silence are already present in your life?

(my list):
sleep, and early-morning time
bicycling
walking
practicing yoga (sometimes)
working in the garden
knitting something very challenging

The coolest thing that I realized in trying this, is that there is this deep well of stillness inside me, and I can reach it in times of chaos and noise, and just be peaceful. I know that this is something I will continue to use and develop throughout my life, to get me through chaotic, stressful, distracting or hectic times, without letting the chaos hurt me, and without dragging others into it as well. The gratitude that I feel for this lesson is something I can't really express with words.

* Quotes in italics come from The Spiritual Activist by Claudia Horwitz.

6 comments:

  1. love your thoughts here. i have trouble being still and quiet and have found myself always with the radio on or even calling folks up (when lonely) to avoid being quiet and still. i liked reading your observations after the retreat. thinking i may try this too.

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  2. I enjoy your blog--found it in a round about kind of way. Wondering what the initials HWWLLB stand for, since I've seen them here more than a few times?

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  3. what an inspiring post. i have been working hard on dealing with silence this past year, living without e, and especially now that i am in my own space with no roomies. it has been hard so far, i think because i still view silence as the enemy sometimes instead of something to embrace. thank you so much for these thoughts.
    xox

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  4. Truly something to reflect on -- quietly!! Have you read "Eat, Pray, Love"? To be honest, I didn't really go mad for the book like some people have, as I found the author's complete self-absorption to be a little off-putting (OTOH, it was her book, so hell, she can write about whatever she wants!). Still, she has some fascinating passages about the very topic you describe.

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  5. i guess
    i echo
    what others
    have said...
    i have recently
    fallen back
    into yoga
    and realize
    how difficult
    it is for me
    to let go.
    my body,
    my mind
    have really
    craved
    the silence
    and peace.
    what you
    have
    said
    really
    resonates
    with me.
    thank you
    so much
    for sharing.
    miss you.
    xo

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  6. i love your blog. thanks! :)
    just wondering... did you tell everyone you were having a day of silence? i can imagine i probably need one, i talk more than anyone i know. although i think my friends and family might think something was dreadfully wrong, and even if i told them i might forget someone i run into at the store!
    tee hee! i love fall too, wish i was somewhere cooler. i miss the leaves changing and picking apples.

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