Silence has always intrigued me.
There can be a real density to it at times. In fact, you can actually hear the silence. Think of a snowstorm when there is no traffic on the road - comforting and calming, the snow cloaks the world in silence. And on days when I forget to put my hearing aids in, I marvel at how quiet and peaceful the day is.
On the other hand, I can think of times where silence can be eerie. A friend of mine from Brooklyn once spent the night at a retreat of sorts out on Long Island. The darkness and lack of sound totally made him anxious. He was so used to the city lights and sounds that the absence of them was too much for him. Can you relate?
I suppose my interest in silence arose from an experience I had in Bermuda when I returned for a visit. More than half my life was spent there, but the deep sea always frightened me. I don't know why, but the notion that a complete other world, larger than our own, exists beneath the surface, always gave me the jitters. Putting my head under water and hearing that deep silence was equally as unsettling to me. And I don't like swimming in water that isn't clear enough to see what's creeping up on you! Spoken like a spoiled Bermudian.
However, on one of my visits I decided to go snorkeling, something I rarely, if ever, did when I lived there. Tobacco Bay is a lovely shallow beach area that opens out to the ocean beyond the rocks. The day I was there, I wanted to venture out to the other side of the rocks, but the waves were crashing against them. Between the sound of the water hitting the rocks and the waves battering my face, I was afraid. But, but, but …. when I placed my head under water with my snorkel, I couldn’t even feel or hear those waves! It was calm and quiet — nothing like the water on the surface. What an eye-opening (or ear-opening?) experience that was for me!
We all have the ability to experience the same thing every day. It's much like meditating. Sitting in silence and going within takes us to a soothing place of refuge. It calms our nerves and helps us deal with the frenzied lives we lead. It makes us more mindful of the present moment rather than dwelling on fears of the future. Within us is a core of inner peace we can all tap into.
You don't have to meditate to find such solace. Stop and listen to the birds. Take in the beauty that surrounds you. Sit still and feel it. Sit still and be silent.
Image: Dive Deeper, clay monoprint by Meredith Wakefield