I am spending the weekend in silence with a group of Quakers. It’s remarkable. Without verbal communication THERE IS SO MUCH ROOM, TO THINK, TO BE, TO CREATE. It is a relief be HERE, in silence. As I’ve said before, getting away causes the excess to melt.
We live in such a noisy world, and we add to that noise unconsciously. As we sat in a circle this morning to center ourselves there were noises everywhere, and they were loud!
“How is this possible?” I thought. “We left the city to enter into silence, and yet…” Geese were honking, kids were playing, basketballs were bouncing, and the refrigerator was running, doors slamming, shoes squeaking. The cacophony seemed to be building until finally we all just laughed, and privately we wondered about the meaning of silence. Does it truly exist?
I have had stupid songs playing in my head almost constantly between, and sometimes during meditations today. Even though I haven’t spoken a word in 24 hours, my brain is FULL of them. On a walk with my boyfriend I made fun of my own failed attempts to tell him a joke using gestures, wondering a little too late why I had felt the need to communicate anything beyond a loving squeeze of his hand.
In my apartment at home I keep a room as empty as possible. There are beautiful things hanging on the walls, an altar in one corner, and a closet full of stuff, but it still looks EMPTY. I love that room because it offers me a sort of physical silence, as if the excess of objects in other rooms made noise. (Come back next week to see a photo of this room along with the rest of my apartment!)
There have been very few moments today when I thought it might be useful to speak. Most of them were related to trivial things like ‘I think she’s still using that spoon,’ or ‘Maybe you could put your hat over there,’ or ‘I agree the cheesecake was good.’ And then there was another moment when we were all eating together, and I thought how easy it would be to make myself heard if I spoke out of the silence – how my voice would resonate, how easy it would be to stand out. It’s the difference between a single note on the desktop instead of piles and piles of paper files – it matters so much more.
I talk a lot, normally, just because I can, or because silence seems to make people uncomfortable, or because there are trivial details that need to be sorted out. Now I’m wondering, do I waste words? Can I narrow it down? How would this affect my life? Language is a type of clutter. I was never aware of it until now. I’ve sought an escape from noise before, but in many ways this silent retreat is the loudest of all because I am truly listening. I HEAR EVERYTHING. And there is more clearing that needs to be done, always.
In The Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruize says, “Be impeccable with your word.” I think I'm starting to get it.
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