Practicing Silence

“Silence bears the wholeness we keep looking for while we do not know exactly what we are looking for.” ~ Robert Sardello

Life’s Companion:  Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin, is one of those books on my shelf whose cover is showing signs of wear and tear, with every other page marked by  highlighters and penciled notes in the margins.  It’s long been a favourite, and for me, the book that really focused my journaling practice into something more.

I’m re-reading Life’s Companion with a friend as part of our year-long ‘Bookends’ project. We admitted we were helpless against our addiction to buying books and then not getting them read (can you relate?).  But we wanted to take it further – not just read certain books, but do them – weave and integrate the contents, the lessons and exercises into our lives and our work. Each week, we follow up with a visual or written response to what moved us.  Having a friend and fellow pilgrim to journey with has been great – a long-held prayer answered.

This week’s chapter was about practicing silence…silence as a way to find the still point at the centre of our self and connect with the Sacred.  Our culture doesn’t value silence; we’re bombarded with noise from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning signalling the start of our day, to the moment we lay down our heads at evening’s end.  Sadly, some people are so uncomfortable with silence, so adapted (or addicted?) to noise that they can’t sleep without the sound of music or television in the background.

There are many ways to enter into silence – through breath, prayer, meditation, nature – whatever practice becomes “the contact point between your ordinary self and the sacred.”

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There is such breathtaking beauty all around us, and so much in nature to teach us of life, of ourselves, and of the Great Creator who spreads this bounty upon the table of life and offers us a feast for body, mind and spirit.  So why do we resist or not indulge in what is so freely offered? Why wouldn’t we connect with this divine gift as often as possible?  Perhaps it’s because we get caught up in life and forget that life is the gift…each inhale and exhale of breath an opportunity to say, “thank you.”

I’m reminded of favourite places that invited and encouraged silence, particularly the retreat centres I would go to regularly. It’s been a long time since I’ve given myself that gift – I’m overdue.

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Yes, it’s wonderful to be able to take yourself away from your ordinary day-to-day routines and surroundings for a few days, a week, or even more – but it’s not a prerequisite.  Silence is ever-present with us, wherever we are.

The following excerpt from Robert Sardello’s book entitled: Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness says this beautifully.  I think this is another book I will need to add to my bookshelf…

“Each of us has an ever-faithful companion-presence. Something that is always with us.  Something that helps us live with inner integrity and depth, to see through the outer coverings of others and of the world to their purpose and core being, and to get over placing ourselves at the center of everything.

This companion-presence is Silence. It never goes away. We go away from it, become distracted and forgetful, and lose the manners needed to nurture companionship with it. We go away from Silence into the world of noise as if into a vast buzzing of insects, pushed to exist within the permanent irritation of dissonance. Our choosing to live in the noise of our thoughts and emotions – within the incessant clamour around us – happens almost without our recognition…”

But Silence was here before anything else, and it envelops everything else. It is the most primary phenomenon of existence, both palpably something and seemingly nothing. Silence is prior to sound, not the cessation of sound. It is already present.

If we drop into quietness just for a moment, we feel the presence of Silence as an invitation. The center of our bodily being is the organ for receiving this invitation from the Silence. As we enter the mystery of Silence, its presence resonates throughout the fibers of our flesh, while extending beyond the flesh to the soul inwardly and to the cosmos outwardly. Our body’s center is the necessary meeting point where the inward Silence of solitude meets up with the great Silence of Cosmic Wisdom.

When we do not cultivate this meeting point in the right ways, we lose access to our soul, to the presence of the Silence, and to our individual place in the Wisdom of the World. Without Silence, we are lost and cannot get still enough to find our way back.

Silence bears the wholeness we keep looking for while we do not know exactly what we are looking for. It is around us and within us. It goes to the deepest depths of the soul into the outermost reaches of the cosmos and continually unites the two at the centering place of a heart. Here we discover the power of re-creation. Here everything comes alive again is if for the first time.                                                                              

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