Silence is a shared phenomenon, and I think I know something of what it is. In silence, it is possible to experience the spacious timelessness that weaves itself around sounds and vibrations, and between moments, movements and occurrences.
Silence is a presence during times of stillness and transition; a friend who embraces me in the here and now, walks with me on my solitary pilgrimage, and shelters me with soul companions along the Way. In Quakers practice, I sit with Friends and enter into 'silent worship', and realise that silence is a kind of religious experience for many. As a student of Buddhism, I am aware that 'noble' and 'thundering' silence is a way of describing the Dharma.
Most of the known universe is understood to be a silent vacuum. A deep and quiet space enfolds our Mother Earth. Silence lingers in the breeze, which I am learning to take refuge in with each breath. Silence beholds a wordless profundity when I gaze pupil-to-pupil with another. Silence caresses the curled locks of a sleeping child, sweet and innocent.
Yet, sometimes there are moments in life when I'm not present with the small and simple joys of a silent mind. I have no silent attention to hear the clock tick or to listen to a singing bird in conversation with my heartbeat. There is just 'the world', and it ricochets around my head. I confess that sometimes silence seems worthless to me when I engage in empty words that fall ashen and cold and contain none of the reaching flames of Heart and Soul. At times like this, there is no contemplation with silence, only chaos spreading through the mind.
Each moment when I enter into silence, I can reunite with the many unconscious parts of myself. I can come into a conscious relationship with all the many aspects that give me some sense of identity - the thoughts, values, feelings and beliefs that turn within me. Silence is the alchemical vessel, the container for all that goes on in my mind.
In silent reflection, I return to the child within so that I can soothe, nurture and protect him. I collect the many broken and scattered pieces of my heart and meld them together with gold. I clean house; sweep the floors, wash the walls and the windows, and let a fresh breeze flow through. I even plump the velvet pillows.
There is a choice that I always have; it is whether to claim my lifelong freedom. This concerns how I engage with life and whether I engage with the inward, reflective dimension of silence at all. Whenever I live for too long disconnected from inner silence, I can get hooked on looking outward only for all my fulfillment. Yet, when I look with silent presence within, I can free myself.
When thoughts arise in silence, they are like clay that can be molded and shaped with loving attention. With no regard for silence, thoughts lose their elasticity and energy, and ideas harden, fragment and cause unnecessary suffering. When I am suffering, it serves me well to pause for silence. Whether I choose to experience it for seconds, hours, weeks, months or a lifetime, returning to silence always enriches me.