Part of my preferred morning routine is to sit in silence for 20 minutes or so. Sometimes I label it meditation and sometimes centering prayer, and sometimes, I confess, I doze more than meditate, even after a good night's rest. I may sit in the living room on one of the wingback chairs or on the front porch, although I risk being interrupted by a greeting from a passing neighbor. I may choose the deck off the dining room, but the sun doesn't bathe that area till lunchtime and often it is just too cool to sit there first thing in the morning. Lately, I have enjoyed reflection time on the screen porch, which is on the lower level of the house between my office and the garage, the back of the house. Private and quiet. Usually. But not lately. In fact, silence is not to be found these days.
Several homes are being constructed on the ridge across from our house. We still have a barrier of woods and green space to give the illusion of privacy, but the tap, tap tapping of hammers, the beehive buzz of saws, the beeping, rumbling, rattling of trucks, the shouting of the worker guys and their occasional country western music, the pounding, the pulsing, the percussion of the building process bombard me. From early morning until into the evening.
The last draw was an extremely upset Mama robin who swooped as close to the porch screens as possible, furiously alerting me to her frustration that I have invaded her space. Apparently, I am too close to her nest. This is her sanctuary and what am I doing there? What am I am doing there? Well, I am certainly not meditating.
My days normally are quite quiet. True, I enjoy listening to NPR when I am in the car, and I like having the TV as my companion when I am cooking, but most of the time when I am working in my office or reading or writing, I do so in silence. I love the 5 minutes of silence at the end of a session with my spiritual director. I walk in the mornings unaccompanied by headset. I am comfortable when time with my husband or other good friend eases into a shared connection of silence. I welcome the time before drifting off to sleep when I close my eyes and settle into silence, reflecting on the day.
Gifts of Silence
I not only am not afraid of silence, I treasure and embrace silence. It is in the silence that I hear who I am and who I have been created to be. Don't get me wrong--I love deep levels of conversation and the ease of laughter and silliness in my life, but what sustains me is a shawl of silence and stillness and solitude. Silence both calms me and energizes me. In silence I strain what is not necessary or worthy or nourishing. I focus and rejuvenate. I allow essence to live. And, of course, as with everything of value it seems paradox emerges. "By wrapping myself in a cocoon of silence, I was in some way engaging more fully with life rather than withdrawing from it." (Anne D. LeClaire)
Yes, I could leave the house and find a place that is more quiet, but I suspect there is a challenge, an opportunity here. Can I create a place of silence within myself even as the world around me is vibrating with noise? How interesting--I have barely noticed the competing sounds from the construction zone as I have engaged with my heart and written this post. So yes, the answer is yes, I can create a place of silence within myself even as the world around me is vibrating with noise.
Selected Resources from my Bookshelves
One Square Inch of Silence, One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World by Gordon Hempton
Listening Below the Noise, A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire
Stillness, Daily Gifts of Solitude by Richard Mahler
A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland