I love to get up early and go outside, especially in the spring. Sometimes there is no breeze and the delicate peach and plum trees and their blossoms stand as silent and unmoving as the red rocks. Silence is always refreshing.
I love the early mornings before the jeeps start to crawl through the forests, or the helicopters hover above the wilderness. As I walk closer to the trees, the sound emerged of the bees buzzing in the blossoms.
After a few minutes, the finches serenade me as I head back into the house, I hear them along with the sound of my breath and my feet as I walk. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
Silence can be hard to come by and easy to avoid these days. We all are busy. As a remedy to the rampant noise and distraction, some people practice meditation in activity, in the form of mindfulness, a discipline of being fully present while doing just one thing.
During the years I lived in the meditation-training center, we were mindful in meditation and in activity.
We also spent many days in silence during the week- and month-long retreats. I would eat, cook, work and meditate in silence.
Sometimes called Noble Silence, this practice helps to settle down distracting thoughts and experience what I am actually experiencing.
Practicing Noble Silence means making a commitment to being in silence. You take a certain amount of time to withdraw from the activity of speech and communication of any kind, and avoid entertainment such as listening to music or the radio, watching television or movies or reading.
Why? These activities capture your attention, and direct it outward. In contrast, silence is a process of turning your attention inward and simply being. When beginning the practice, you might notice your internal dialogue becomes even more turbulent, sometimes referred to as “monkey mind.”
Some people begin to feel an intense need to say or communicate just about anything, even “thank you,” “please” or “sorry.”
A sense of urgency or anxiety may come up or they may get fixated on a thought. When we stay with the practice, the internal dialogue about the past, the future and the inner commentary about life and what surrounds us begins to settle.
Maybe the mind gives up; perhaps it figures there’s no point in going around and around if you’re not going to speak, period.
As the internal dialogue slows down you will begin to experience the stillness of the present moment, the here, the now. You might experience that you’re more of a human “being” rather than a human “doing,” as you witness your actions and thoughts in this silence.
Who is this witness? Who are you really? Silence helps you to realize your true, expanded self.
It also provides an opportunity to commune with yourself and hear a wiser voice, perhaps it’s intuition or perhaps it’s the whispers of the gods that Emerson was referring to.
Could you spend a day or part of a day in silence? Decide when to take the time off, let your loved ones know, and take a vow of silence.
Remind them you are not ignoring them, you will be speaking to them again. Turn off your TV, cell phone and home phone, take a day off from the computer and electronics, don’t listen to music or read.
Don’t speak or write to anyone, don’t make wild gestures to communicate with your family. Instead, be with yourself, turn your attention inward with the intention to get to know yourself.
Experience yourself and the sensations as you walk, cook, eat, shower and meditate. Closely pay attention to what you see, touch, taste, smell and hear. Be the witness to your internal and external. This practice will help you to be fully present to your life, one moment after another.
Another way to experience silence is to give yourself some time in nature. And no, the walk from your front door to the car, or from your car to the entrance of the grocery store doesn’t count.
Most of us spend most of our time indoors, focused on the busyness of our lives and disconnected from the earth and nature. But much of what we truly need can only be found under the naked sky, alongside red rocks, on paths through the forest, or by the creek with our cell phone turned off and without our iPods.
Sometimes taking a walk in the evening as the sun sets or feeling the wind on your face may be all that’s needed to reconnect with nature and ourselves. Being in the natural world can calm the mind and emotions, and helps us let go of mental stress. We are as much a part of nature as are the leaves on a tree or the birds.
Silence, like being in nature, is a practice that helps us to discover who we really are, that we are each whole, peaceful and perfect.
It helps us to relieve stress and a perfect way to shift our perception as it allows us to see the world as happening for us rather than happening to us.