At this point in my life I travel often for my work. Because I am on and off planes a lot, I am always looking for “little books”, the operative word being little. My husband and I were in our local bookstore picking up something for him and a small book called “Listening below the Noise” caught my eyes. I bought it and then put it in my briefcase to read whenever an opportune moment came up.
A few weeks or perhaps a month went by and then this moment arrived. I was on a plane headed home and I fished the book out of my bag, I opened it up and began to read the introduction and within moments I was full of emotion and gentle tears were rolling down my cheeks. I decided that I would wait until I got home to continue so that I would not have a total “meltdown” right there on the plane. However, the immediate and profound connection to this little book so not lost on me at all. Amazingly enough, for the next half a year or so, well after I had actually read the book, every time I mentioned it or opened it to read to someone the introduction, I would well up with deep emotion again.
Although I can be quite stubborn and hard-headed at times, I am luckily not that “asleep to myself” that I miss cues that are this obvious. And the essential message of the book was to become much more specific and disciplined about creating a “space to hear myself”…the metaphor of the “secret garden” was the reference in the introduction in this little book that was the deep emotional hook. And the practice that the author had personally engaged for over seventeen years prior to writing this book was a practice of silence. Every other Monday for seventeen years, this author took a day of silence. The book was her personal musings and learning from this monthly practice.
So, I decided to try this myself. I made a commitment to take the last Sunday of each month in Silence. That was almost three years ago and it has been a profound experience. Every month is different in terms of the rhythm of the day and the nature of how I spend the time, but the one thing that remains constant is a very deep quality of listening and attending to my own, unique, internal “voice”. By dedicating this time on a monthly basis, it has allowed me to develop a much more refined and distinct awareness of the voice that is “mine” from the voices that are others. The power of this awareness is that the more I live and make choices from the voice that is mine, the more congruence there is in my life overall. And by congruence, I mean this at all levels of experience: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
When I operate out of a rhythm that is more consistently my own, the impact on my body is significant. All of our physical bodies are completely tuned to what could be called our own, unique, signature rhythm. When the outer choices are in sync with this signature rhythm, the body relaxes and begins to realign itself naturally and effortlessly. Patterns of illness and “dis-ease” recede and are replaced by a deeper and more sustained energy of balance, health, and strength. And I use the word “strength” deliberately because it is the kind of energy that has real staying power to it. It is the kind of strength that I would use when I was climbing mountains for a living ~ the success of mountaineering comes in picking a pace that you can sustain “all day long” without getting tired. That is the pace that allows one to successfully climb big mountains (and I suppose little ones too). This is the kind of pace that is tapped into a flow of energy that is both physical and “non-physical” simultaneously. At some point I may write more on this particular subject, but for now I want to get back to the time of silence. hat may well be the segue into this subject anyway.
Hearing this rhythm more directly on my days of silence seems to be a direct result of the fact that on these days of silence I “empty”: empty at all levels but very specifically at the levels of mind and emotion. When these days arrive I almost always have no agenda or plans. Every once in a great while I have had to travel on this last day of the month, which is its own special experience, but generally I am at home. My husband knows that on this day I will do only exactly what I am called to do ~ I rise, eat, sleep, sit, walk, contemplate, meditate, read only if and when I am actually draw to do so. In many respects I spend the vast proportion of the day “doing nothing”. It is a day of Being rather than Doing as the central core. And because of this, my mind and my emotions have a chance to unwind and go “empty”. Space takes the place of plans and duties, and in this space often very subtle but distinct insights emerge. Insights surface: about old habits, about the nature of reality, about the environment around me. But more than insights, I simply experience the flow of Life. I understand ever more personally why there is so much apparent “emptiness” in the Universe. Because in the emptiness is complete fullness of a certain kind. In that fullness, a lot less “stuff needs doing” because there is an inherent experience of completeness with what is already. I totally understand and can relate to things like why Sister Teresa only owned one book, a pair of shoes and two changes of clothing. With that kind of simplicity, my whole experience becomes one of engaging with the wholeness of what is already, rather than managing and caring for material possessions. Because whatever possessions I own, regardless of whether they simply sit in a closet or shed somewhere, take a certain amount of psychic energy. Whether I like it or not, all my possessions are connected to me ~ either loosely or tightly, depending on my level of investment in them. And this includes the possessions of thoughts and emotions as well. Holding on to specific thoughts and emotions is a much a habit of “hoarding” as in holding on to physical stuff.
I had a very beautiful experience of this yesterday on my day of silence, which this month happened to be Christmas Day. To have this day fall on Christmas made the experience of emptying so distinct and exquisite because despite what we here in North America have tended to make of the Christmas experience, there is an inherent depth of stillness of this day of the year that is unique. The Sun is in its celestial “pause”. Here in New Hampshire the day has more dark than light, which encourages me to instinctively go to the “space in between” rather than the activities that fill it. As I sat on my couch, I found myself dropping, dropping into a the greater Me and out of the smaller Me. And at one point I realized that this is, indeed, the whole essence of Christmas itself: the merging of self with Self. Although I was not raised within any particular religious tradition, I did not need this to experience the truth of the spirit that is celebrated at this time of year. Past, present, and future tend to disappear when I open to the great emptiness of the Universal now.