The Sound of Silence
There is something incredibly special about morning air. Every morning when I wake up the first thing I do is open the window and/or the door and feel the air. No matter where I am or what season, I am always anxious to get a whiff, to get a feel of what is in the air. And always, no matter what, it is sweet. Sweet in the way that a particular friend calls at just the right moment. Sweet in the way that the rabbit hops right into the sunshine to twitch at nothing. Sweet in the way the world appears after long periods of solitude and silence.
I cannot deny that as much as I love words (and music) there are times when all I want is silence. Space where there is nothing but the sound of my own insides to tend to. It is for me a matter most important to my health. My ears are sharp and sensitive. Human voices can almost always draw my attention. Bird voices, too. Then, the question of how or where do I place my attention in a given moment. Do I move toward the sound? Do I move to the feeling in my gut or my chest? Do I allow the thoughts that arise to draw me into some story or memory?
Critical to my health seems to be the ability to tune in to my own body, to listen and to hear what is arising in any given moment. You can train in this kind of listening in many ways. You can pay attention anytime or you can arrange formal times to pay special attention. Both are good. Special attention might be called meditation whether sitting, walking or moving. Open attention might be called cooking, dancing, talking. All are good.
For most of my life, the main ways that I have learned to listen are meditation practice and questions. Probably questions came first. Questions can take me in or out. Meditation practice can tune me in to my own body and open me to the body of the world. When I leave my cushion and return to my house, my car, my shopping, my walking, the world becomes bright and open, available in a way it wasn’t before. This never ceases to amaze me.
But if we only pay attention to what is inside, if we don’t allow the outside air to come in, we can become stuck and narrow in our view of how things are. Strangely, we humans live in a skin that is both impervious and permeable. This is an apt metaphor of how we might wish to live in the larger world. Impervious, or perhaps, objective, even detached to many things that occur and yet permeable, open, touched by other things. Do you know what touches you? Do you hear what the world is saying around you? Do you hear the voice inside? Or do you only hear the outside voices?
When I write, I have to allow both the inside and the outside voices to show up. It can be hard to rest with the often cacaphonous sound of the inside and the outside carrying on together until somehow they begin to tune in to each other, resonating, sounding, the sweet sound of the world coming through me.
I wonder how the world comes through you.