A Meditation on Silence
We have a strong tendency to imagine Silence as the absence of sound. This imagination deprives Silence of being anything in itself and makes it an emptiness, a void in what should be the norm. 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. . . .
All religious traditions, all forms of meditation, and all rituals attract Silence. Yet strangely, users of these traditions acknowledge Silence mostly as a starting point to launch into whatever they each promote. Hurling toward their goals in their multitude of ways, they do not realize that they have reached it with their very first step. . . .
Naming the personal benefits of Silence is easy. . . . But all these results are by-products of Silence and not reasons for becoming intrigued with it. To prematurely focus on its gifts – to ask what this experience will do for me – severely limits how deep we are able to go into the Silence, and makes us complacent and satisfied with mere imitations of the phenomenon. . . .
We think we can find silence by being quiet for a while, going inward, getting back in touch with ourselves, disengaging for a time from all of the pressures and tensions of life. This limited view is like getting to the door of the cathedral and thinking that is the whole of the experience. . . .
When we find the entry into this large stillness, our lives are irrevocably changed because at that moment a monumental transition takes place: we find that the centre of the universe shifts from our self-interests, even our spiritual self-interests, to the larger world, even to the cosmos, which we now begin to perceive as a spiritual reality. . . We are not adding our subjectivity to the world but discovering that the kind of separation between ourselves and the world we have adopted is an illusion. . . .
As both physical organ and spiritual-imaginative centre, the heart is the only true organ for perceiving Silence. . . . Our body’s centre is the necessary meeting point where the inward silence of solitude meets up with the great Silence of Cosmic Wisdom. . . . We discover that each thing of the world lives deeply within us. But more, we discover that each of us, in the region of the soul, lives deeply within the soul of the world and the crossing point is the centering heart.
What sets apart the realm of Silence from other experiences that typically occur in meditation is that the world is not left behind. No. Right here, within this world, we discover immediate evidence of invisible worlds by taking up the physics of engagement with what cannot be seen but is so strongly felt as to give us certainty. . . .
Everything, it seems, has its own quality of silence. . . . The Silence of high, rocky Mountains can be felt as an immensity of silence that contacts us in such a way that we feel ourselves as one with its immensity, its immovability, and its vastness. . . . A dense forest has another kind of Silence. It’s darker, deeper, and more inward; we feel our experience much more from within our body. There are also the happy silences of the wandering stream, the radiant but oppressive silence of the pyramids, the magical silence of the stars casting spells over the whole of the earth, the vast interior silence of the cathedral whose walls seem built around the silence, and the silence of a leaf falling into the Silence that enfolds it. We can imagine assembling a vast catalogue of such qualities of Silence.