Monday, April 19, 2010

Silence

Entering a church~~grand cathedral or tiny chapel, it makes little difference~~immediately reorients me. Places of worship exude a palpable sense of the holy. Vaulted ceilings, the lingering scent of candle wax and incense, sunlight filtering through windows of stained glass, all are evocative of the spiritual dimension.

There is also, though, a sacred hush in these places. There is silence. Quietude fills every corner. Coughs, the swish of clothing, the fall of footsteps seem only to magnify the stillness.

German theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote that, “there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence.” And yet, we often have so little of it in our daily lives. Television, traffic noise, shallow conversation are just a few examples of the omnipresent and intrusive sounds of modern culture.

In Anam Cara: Wisdom from the Celtic World, Irish poet and former priest, John O’Donohue, speaks of an impoverishment of the soul that comes from such a pervading racket. “People’s lives are being taken outwards all the time,” he notes. “The inner world of the soul is suffering a great kind of eviction.” He goes on to add that, “one of the reason that so many people are so stressed in modern life is not that they’re doing very stressful things, but that they allow so little space for the silence.”

There does seem to be a correlation between outer noise and inner unrest. Fortunately, though, by consciously adding periods of quiet into our lives, we create opportunities for inner stillness to grow and our souls to be replenished.

We may have to work at it a bit, though. After being inundated with noise over an extended period of time, the experience of silence can be somewhat unnerving. We then seem all too ready to substitute an internal babel to continue the agitation.

It often takes a while to settle into an inner calm. But settle we shall, if we regularly make room for silence in our lives. Whether sitting in a church, walking in the woods, or coming to rest in a quiet corner of our own homes, we nurture an inclination toward stillness.

The rewards are great. “In the attitudes of silence,” Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” In precious moments of meditation, we touch the Great Silence. It opens and stretches out around us, and we find ourselves relaxing into its embrace.

Then, to use O’Donohue’s words, “that which is deep and lives in the silence” within us is allowed to bloom. And with that blossom in place, we return to our everyday world more fully awakened to life.

A Quaker proverb comes to mind. “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.” After deep contact with that silence, we are more apt to make contributions, spoken or otherwise, that are worthy, ones that enhance the greater good.

As the attitude of silence Gandhi referred to deepens, we also become better able to maintain a conscious connection to that pristine reservoir of tranquility~~the font at the heart of our being~~no matter the din that may surround us.

May you experience the embrace of the Great Silence in the days ahead.

Be well!

Loanne Marie

2 comments:

Carol said...

Beautiful words. Thanks for sharing. I love the Quaker quote the best. Reading this just before my nap and, now, infused with peace.
I love you.
Carol

Loanne Marie said...

Sweet dreams! Zzzzzzzz.

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