Silence is the Teacher

Silence is essential. We depend upon the absence of open space. We cannot experience life without this fundamental emptiness. In no uncertain terms this void has given rise to us, and indeed to all life. And yet it seems that this void is what so many of us are running from. Our lives today are so frantic and caffeine-fuelled that we hardly ever stop to really listen; to hear a symphony of leaves rustling in a breeze, to hear our own breath passing through our nostrils, or to hear our innermost thoughts.

At the core of our being is a window opening to this cavernous infinity literally teeming with the boundless potential of pure emptiness – the fabric of the universe. To come directly in contact with it feels rather frightening if we have not checked in with it lately. But as we allow it to express itself, patiently observing all that arises from this space, we become clearer and freer, more able to truly connect and express ourselves from the depth of our being.

Some fortunate souls have lived lives closer to the centre, not having strayed so far from themselves, and may not have as jarring an experience in connecting with their core, but it seems more and more the norm that the countless diversions and distractions of modern life are alienating us from the peace and simple wisdom of our own inner silence. When was the last time you sat for a few minutes without any input and simply paid attention? No TV. No phone. No music. No book. Not even drifting off to sleep. Awake and alert, just you and whatever thoughts or feelings are stirring about in your present experience. Have a go at it. See how quickly you try to run away. See how soon your thoughts try to busy you with ‘more important matters’.

The demanding and rapidly-expanding speed and scale of our consumer society finds us so often at odds with ourselves that many of us have stopped taking note. It hurts to look inside, so we keep occupied, believing our sheer busy-ness to be some sort of virtue. We are always ‘behind’ the eight ball, playing catch-up in work that has been force-fed us, competing with people we call peers, secretly hoping their failure may lead to our success. What kind of sickness have we been infected with? But we need not feel guilty about this sort of thinking, if we are even aware enough to recognize it. We can simply acknowledge it for what it is, culturally-fed momentum spinning about our heads. This conditioned thinking is only problematic to the extent that it goes unnoticed, or believed.

But a simple step toward silence unravels all of this toxic content, reshaping the very context of our lives, allowing us to see more deeply who we are and to engage with life in a more playful way, free of the desperation of competition and scarcity, no longer obsessed with what everyone else is doing or thinking, finally free to be and do as we see fit with every moment given us. We come to see that each breath is a gift, inspiring and informing us, offering us a chance to become who we really are. Living from this inward and private space of silence, we no longer seek consensus, news or approval from those around us, and yet we understand more clearly our union with everyone and everything. In this space we can speak freely from our hearts and we can listen deeply from the hearts of our brothers and sisters, offering the simple healing power of our presence, free from distraction.

 

Well over 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau warned of the dangers of losing touch with ourselves, sacrificing our inner silence for the superficial ‘juice’ of society (his mention of the post office might as well be Facebook today):

When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbour; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself this long while.

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