It was spring of 2009 and while I was waiting for my husband to buy a book in our local bookstore, a small book entitled “Listening below the Noise” caught my eye. Always looking for light reads, both literally and metaphorically, I added it to his tab. Traveling regularly at this time of my life, I slipped this book into my always ready to go briefcase. A few weeks later winging my way home from a work engagement, I remembered this little book I had tucked away. Drawing it out and settling into my seat, I flipped it open to the introduction and began to read. Moments later tears were streaming down my cheeks, it was all I could do to contain a full out episode of weeping. “Not the place to read this book” I thought as I abruptly closed it and slid it safely back into the space from which it had emerged.
Arriving home, I took it out of my briefcase and put it on the coffee table figuring I would try again at some point. Several months went by and then one day I saw it and decided to pick it up again. Sure enough, I barely got into the introduction when I started to weep. In my paradigm, when this level of emotion breaks surface it is like a major ‘fire alarm’ going off inside.
“Warning, warning. Imminent danger of meltdown approaching.”
The opening pages describe a woman entering a secret garden where she has time and space to be just with herself in a quiet way. Up from the watery depths bubbled the realization that I was craving precisely this kind of time and space myself. Continuing to ignore this message was at my own peril. At the heart of this book was the author’s experience of Silence. For seventeen years every other Monday, without fail, she was silent. Each page was filled with the lived experience of practicing of Silence.
Craving this experience myself, I launched into my own practice. Choosing the last Sunday of each month I began a day of silence. Five years later it is still my practice - with an added twist. In August of that same year, five women who have been leadership consultants for several decades gathered for two days to talk about our lives, and particularly our common desire to support women who are being called into their full stature. As we explored topics and themes that were relevant, internal stillness came up repeatedly as the foundation for staying connected to one's unique path and calling. Each of us had practices that opened doorways into deep quietude.
Because my monthly day of Silence was such a powerful game changing experience for me, I suggested that perhaps the five of us could use this last Sunday each month as a time to practice Silence together. It would be a virtual community of practice that was flexible and accommodated the unique rhythm of each person. The five of us sent a letter out to our international networks of women. Over eight hundred women now practice silence and the network grows steadily each year. A monthly message of connection and inspiration goes out from Barbara Cecil and me to this network, including thoughts and reflections from others as they arise.
Adding this day of Silence gradually transformed my life into a rhythm of much greater balance, insight, and joy. One day a month where I let the focus be dedicated to reconnecting with my own internal compass and voice was a profound signal to the universe that I was serious about a deeper, more consistent experience of these nascent yet palpable impulses within myself. The urge to share it in a wider way came from the realization of five women that we were all craving more Silence and perhaps we were not alone. Such a simple moment of awareness has found its way into the consciousness of women and men around the world. Important ideas become seeded and grow – small but undeniable experiences that take root grow and blossom.