As I waited for my favorite stray to approach for his kibble, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of noise. Even the mysterious, ever-present outdoors hum was gone. My tinnitus was absent. I looked down at the sidewalk and noticed that Cat had arrived. It seemed like even he respected the silence early this morning.
After he padded out of the yard and onto the street, I pondered the peculiarity of this morning’s profound silence. It was almost as if the town had been meditating.
It’s a truism that sacred silence helps reveal every feeling and thought in the mind. To pay attention to the silence is to simply hear it and follow it for awhile. In listening to the sounds of silence, one begins to understand oneself better. In the practice of paying attention to silence, awareness arises. Perhaps Cat was aware of this awareness when he arrived at my feet this morning.
There are many blessings in the quiet of very early mornings. You notice the beauty of subtlety. There’s a precision of attention to the minutiae because sight is inhibited and the brain focuses its efforts onto the sense of hearing. The silence is like a vast ocean that engulfs the mind with wonder touched with a note of fear. Yet the fear is only the inborn fear we all have that helps us to thrive in nature. It is not the manufactured fear that society feeds to us.
The fear-tinged joyful silence is uplifting and inspiring when the constant mental chattering pauses for a few precious moments. It is when one struggles to maintain that mental silence, that that silence instantly vanishes. You notice the futility of the struggle to maintain mental silence. This causes you to laugh inwardly and outwardly.
“Introspection, or ‘sitting in the silence,’ is an unscientific way of trying to force apart the mind and senses, tied together by the life force. The contemplative mind, attempting its return to divinity, is constantly dragged back toward the senses by the life currents.”–yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda
I’ve noticed that lately music plays a less prominent role in my daily life. In the past, music had been a disproportionately large part of my life. As a youth, the music played in my room, in the car, and while hanging out with friends. Music became my vocation when I acquired the title of music director. Sometimes I needed to have soft, “contemplative” music during formal meditation. I usually used the “sleep” function on the clock-radio after climbing into bed to rest.
Now I more often go about life without listening to music. There are some days when the only tunes I hear are on the intercom systems of retail stores. The car is where much listening had taken place. Now, I’d rather drive without the stereo turned on. It is more satisfying to listen to the humming engine, and the whirring of tires on the pavement. Maybe I’ve become a more mindful, better driver by adding silence to each journey.
This is not to say that I dislike music. On the contrary, the music I play is now more mindfully chosen. I continue to appreciate music of nearly every genre. The music I choose is more strategic. The music has become an ingredient to enhance the silence. Music is no longer used simply to have as background “Muzak” for my life. Music is now “on purpose”.
It seems like silence has become a precious commodity these days. We have largely turned away from it as we obsess over our machinery and devices that distract us from facing life. It is healthy to mute the noise for awhile each day so we can contemplate or meditate. Being present in the sweet silence restores the sacred essence within us.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes theologian Henri Nouwen. “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”