I surround myself with noise:
Music, the radio, television, children, chatter, and appliances.
And when there is no noise, I create my own; in my head or out loud.
I feel comfortable with noise.
It reassures me that all is OK in the world. That normal service has been resumed.
That things are going on as they should.
That I am alright with the world, and the world is alright with me.
Noise is the modern comfort blanket: Muzak, iPods, phones – reassurance that we are still living and that the world wants our attention.
But it’s all on the surface and, as with the proverb about the swimming pool, all the noise comes from the shallow end.
When we hear silence it is deep, profound, and life changing.
When we are open to silence we are open to that depth, to the possibility of our lives being changed.
But we do this so rarely.
We get up to the noise of the alarm, we turn the radio on, we clatter about, we exchange inanities with friends and family, we go to work with noise, we work with noise around us, and we go home to sit in front of noise, until we go to bed, where the noise in our heads keeps us awake.
And I am not much better with people.
The worst thing that can happen is for the conversation to dry up and leave us with an awkward silence – meaning a silence that causes us to feel awkward things. So we say something to cover up the awkwardness, to make it go away.
In fact we often shape the way we converse to avoid those silences. I find that my whole relationship with some people is built around keeping the conversation going. Filling the gaps, entertaining the person I am with, rather than letting us both be.
And, of course, there is a complementary position with the other person who tacitly allows you to ‘make the running’, while they just concentrate on getting the ball back over the net – for you to hit it again.
The sound of silence is the sound of the universe speaking to us.
It is more profound, more meaningful, more nourishing than anything that anyone could say, and yet we often do all we can to avoid it.
It brings peace, it brings harmony, and it brings understanding.
The problem is that it also makes us feel.
We are forced to feel what’s going on in our bodies, and what’s going on around us. And because that feeling involves an element of pain, we try to push it away.
However, that feeling, that pain, is what ultimately heals us.
It tends our wounds, and it brings us to wholeness.
Silence between people brings understanding, it allows love to grow, and it fosters intimacy.
Yet we avoid it.
We avoid silence at the cost of our health, of our joy, and of our ultimate happiness.
For it is the silence of the Eternal Nature that brings into contact with who we really are.
In it, we can hear that ‘still small voice’ which speaks to us in our hearts and which leads us home.
And we continue to wonder why we feel lost.
Silence is the most under-rated and under-used free resource that is available to all.
Each of us could seek to experience it more, could seek to practice it more.
To do so would make us all richer.
What is the sound of silence? It is like the sound of one hand clapping.
To listen for it is to hear it.