Sounds of Silence

This is dedicated to my online mentor, David Kanigan, who has of late, been the muse behind my weekly column:

“….each silence has a character of its own. No meditation better
clears the mind than to listen to the shape of the silence that surrounds
us. It focuses us on the thin line between what is there and what is not
there. It opens our heart to the unseen, and reminds us that the world
is larger than the events that fill our days.” ~ Kent Nerburn, ‘The Eloquence of Silence’

I bask in silence and need it to nurture what I think of as my soul. In his essay, ‘The Eloquence of Silence’ from the book, “Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life”, Kent Nerburn captures the very essence of silence. Silence dressed in the white flowing robes of clarity provides us with the room to think; the room to contemplate; and the room to gather the scatter of our lives. Not all silence is calm. Sometimes, in the shroud of darkness, it shouts and in that silence there is no peace. But the silence that I find nourishing has no specific voice other than the one I choose to give it.

I know people who thrive on the busyness of life. And I understand. There is satisfaction in getting things done; going places; and being industrious. Sometimes I thrive on these things, but I need the balance of silence to offset the demands of a hectic life. Of late I have been spring cleaning, and if I do say so myself I am appalled at the dust bunnies, cobwebs, and detritus of everyday life that I have ignored during the cold months. But in my diligent hunt to eradicate dust and dirt, I pause and sit in silence to enjoy the harvest of my labours: the clean front window, the no longer grime encrusted kitchen fan, the clean bric-a-brac that litters every surface in all my rooms. (I am just this side of being a bit of a hoarder.)

In silence, I relish the life that busyness has created. I revisit the pleasant lunch I had with my sister who is visiting from Ottawa; I listen once again to the music of a rare concert; I revisit the laughter of times spent with friends. If I did not have silence then the events of my life would have one note. With silence, I have the whole melody to revel in the complexities of life.

I am not the only one who cherishes silence. Here are a few of my favourite quotes about silence from some pretty famous people, so I am in good company:

1. I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own. – Chaim Potok, The Chosen
2. Silence is a source of great strength. – Lao Tzu
3. Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence. – Leonardo da Vinci
4. Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact. – George Eliot
5. Silence is a true friend who never betrays. – Confucius
6. Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. – Francis Bacon
7. Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men’s imperfections, and conceal your own. – George Bernard Shaw
8. There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
9. Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. – Max Ehrmann, Desiderata
10. There are times when silence is the best way to yell at the top of your voice. – O. A. Battista

Silence can shout and it must be listened to. When I do not have enough “silent” time I am decidedly off my game. I need silence to gather my thoughts; to put together the self that has been torn apart; to just be. And it is multi-dimensional, as Nerburn illustrates in this passage, which I think deserves to conclude a column dedicated to silence:

“We need to pay heed to the many silences in our lives. An empty room is alive with a different silence than a room where someone is hiding. The silence of a happy house echoes less darkly than the silence of a house of brooding anger. The silence of a winter morning is sharper than the silence of a summer dawn.”

Enjoy, delight, and revel in the many silences of your life.

Where do you find your comfortable silence?

Published in: on May 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm  Comments (17)  
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Prayer

Reverent silence
Holy in its sanctity
Still meditation

 

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Silence of Listening

    “The word ‘listen’ has the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”  ~  Alfred Brendel

         

          How many times have we barked the word “Listen!” in a plea to be heard, silencing the chaos that supposedly serves as conversation, but is really a soliloquy?  And how many times have we delivered our own monologues with little thought of the person listening?

          Austrian pianist, poet, and author, Alfred Brendel’s observation that the word ‘listen’ has the same letters as the word ‘silent’” says volumes. In order to listen we have to be silent. Not waiting our turn to talk and take centre stage but giving the rostrum to another, and actually hearing what they have to say. In silence we can hear, but the silence has to be one that not only silences the tongue but quiets the mind.

          I practice listening. It is not easy.  Ernest Hemmingway’s advice to “listen completely when people talk” sounds simple—but his addition that “most people never listen” is unfortunately not merely the surveillance of a curmudgeon, but the truth of a scribe. Practicing listening takes patience but it is rewarded ten-fold. I am starting to get beyond just practicing and incorporating “listening” as a something that comes naturally, something I do not have to think about, and something that adds to  my body of knowledge.

          As a writer, I have at my fingertips (quite literally) the ability to be heard, and that is why I write. I am not a particularly effective speaker—one liners are my speciality, but scratch the surface and you will find a tongue-tied scribbler. I have on occasion tried and failed to enter conversations—perhaps my entry into the fray is not passionate enough, loud enough, or, and this could be the whole crux of the problem, interesting enough.

          Writing gives one the chance to silent conversation and finally be heard (to an extent—I realize you can always stop reading me in mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, or even after the very first sentence—but I try not to think about that).  I can focus when I write about a topic—my mind is organized in such a way that saying what I mean, sharing what I know, and sharing the knowledge of others is not difficult when I put words on a page.  But when I open my mouth, many times my brain shuts down—it seems to me I have a flap that opens when I write and closes when I talk. So it behooves me to be a good listener as I am not a good verbal storyteller.

          Silence is also something I cherish. I have never been able to understand news writers who work in a noisy environment—the few times I have worked at the newspaper office have been enlightening but certainly not my creative best. Even when I worked as a full time reporter, I wrote my articles in a corner of my home office (also known as my dining room), sometimes with a toddler at my side—but mostly when the rest of the household was asleep or out. As I write this, my youngest son is asleep upstairs and my husband is out—there is no radio or television on, and all I hear is the reassuring hum of my refrigerator (reassuring, because if there is no hum, it is not working—and that is not conducive to writing).

          Chaos reigns in all of our lives. Silence is the cure. Listening is also an antidote to chaos, because by listening, you are silencing your demons and opening yourself up to something new, something worthwhile, and something you might not have discovered with your mouth open.

          Listen. Silent. They both have the same letters. Listening to silence, a/k/a meditation is another way to “get in touch with ourselves”—certainly a mantra of the 21st century. But think about it—in silence you get to listen to yourself, and though sometimes I bore myself silly—other times I figure out a new way of looking at things.  A way I would not have discovered if I had not stopped to listen in silence.

          I will end with this quote attributed to that sage of all wisdom, wearer of red suspenders, and really old guy, Larry King: “I’ve never learned a thing while my mouth was moving.”

Published in: on January 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm  Comments (47)  
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January Speaks

Memories linger

Holidays are stowed away  ~

Silent night descends

Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm  Comments (15)  
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A Sunday Thought

Silence is not nothingness but the stillness from which clarity and insight can spring.-

Sounds of Silence (album)

Sounds of Silence (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donald Altman, Author of One Minute Mindfulness

Published in: on September 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm  Comments (13)  
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Writing Bliss

English: Picture of an open book, that does no...

“Writing is a struggle against silence.”

~ Carlos Fuentes

Published in: on January 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm  Comments (27)  
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~Silence Times Three~

English: Milltown of Kellas in the silence of ...

1.

No silence this night

The eve before Christmas Day

Excitement abounds

2.

Silence reigns before

The bells peal out their refrain

Announcing the news

3.

Snow crunches underfoot

Breaking the night’s silence

Moon shine lights the way

Frosty Footpath - winter snow

Frosty Footpath – winter snow (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 12:14 am  Comments (23)  
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