2016 has been a very noisy year. Of course there has been the cacaphony of the political conflict that doesn’t shut up. There have also been the personal struggles we have all experienced throughout the year. We are subjected to advertising and other pitches designed to enflame our desires for new, novel stuff. Moralists tell us we’re flawed people they try to recruit us to their religions. To top it off, we have had to cope with the holiday season, which technically isn’t over yet.
Sometimes we just want to get away from these unpleasant sounds coming at us from all directions. Maybe you decide to coccoon yourself within your room or try to feign illness. Perhaps a solitary walk outdoors will do the trick today. Maybe an escape to the gym or a spa promises to be the break you need. You might decide now is the time to finally take up meditation. Or drown out the noise with some music.
I’ve noticed that regardless of where I go, the noise follows me. I’ve sat inside of a civic auditorium waiting for a “spiritual celebrity” to speak. I’ve occupied pews in Methodist churches more times than I can count and attended services in other Christian denominations many other times. I’ve shared in ceremonies at a mosque and in a Jewish temple. I’ve been to Yosemite Park to lose myself in nature. I once explored Hare Krishna and chanted mantras. I currently engage a Tibetan guru.
Sometimes the ever-present silence reveals itself when I create a floral arrangement or sit in formal meditation at my shrine. Soon enough, I notice the ringing of tinnitus in my head or hear the click of the furnace beginning its heating cycle. The mundane sounds trigger more strings of chattering by my monkey mind. On and on the noise begins again. Sometimes the monkey mind tries to analyze the bit of silence I had just encountered. How ironic is that? Then I concentrate on just the act of breathing. I hear the noise of my breath.
I ask, am I looking for God in this elusive silence? Am I trying to force a Zen experience in my search? Am I on the path of awakening or enlightenment. Do I just want a safe harbor from my noisy, daily life? Wouldn’t it just be easier to wear a set of earplugs and drink alcohol to excess? No, these escapes only create more noise.
I retreat once again to my shrine. Maybe I will find that indescribable state of mind where there is no observer, hearer, or other experiencer. The place where there is no analysis. It’s not even called “meditation”. There is no motive nor thought of reward. Just a wide-open mind and the spaciousness of emptiness.
Still there is the noise of all the words I just wrote.