Today, I say good bye to my dear north woods and head back to the regular rhythm of life. As I write, I hear the kingfisher, eagle and hummingbird, notice the knots of brush ahead of me, bending around each other creating their own intimate puzzle to the amusement of the squirrels, inhale the delightful coolness of the lake breeze. Hundreds, if not thousands of trees surround me, standing straight and tall, guarding the land. They are such stalwart beings, branches linked above ground, roots below; wrapped around each other holding the entire forest together. Oh, that we humans could deepen our ability to live like this – holding each other up and together – stronger together than apart.
This time away has allowed my body, mind and spirit much needed rest after these last months of a constant movement: zigging and zagging, ducking and diving… I found in my attempt to keep myself emotionally and physically upright, my pen seemed to dry up, my focus impossible to find. At first I thought it was my inability to keep up with life, then, the realization came – I hadn’t the neuro-pathways constructed to process all that was happening. (In fact, none of us did!) And at the end of many a day, I found myself sitting under a tree, allowing the wind to blow away all that was sitting on my shoulders and in my bones. All those things I had no idea what to do with, they blew away up into the trees and were carried along with the current to parts unknown. It was all I had available to me at the time: I couldn’t meditate, I was too tired to go for a walk, my muse, mute. I could however, sit in the silence. I found this soul soothing practice quite by accident, now I choose it with intention.
Resting in the silence is not easy for me. I always have something to say, even if it stays on the inside, never escaping my lips. Resting in silence is different from choosing to be silent. Choosing to be silent can happen when we want to meditate, or listen to children playing or the birds singing. Other times we choose silence when we don’t want to say what “needs” to be said; maybe we don’t want to rock the boat, or the family dinner… Perhaps like me, you have practiced these sorts of silence over the years. However what I have been learning recently is this: the difference between choosing and resting in silence has to do with my own expectations of outcome of the experience of silence.
Choosing silence usually has some sort of agenda. I want to meditate, so I choose silence to restore my mind, body, spirit. Or, maybe I choose silence because I don’t want to disrupt a relationship, (which could be a wise move or a passive one…) But resting in silence is neither of these. It has no agenda, it allows the breeze to blow at will; bringing to us something we need, or taking with it something to release. It is walking in the woods and not thinking about anything. It is being ok with nothing happening or everything happening. I always thought silence needed to fulfill a purpose, but I am learning it does not need my agenda to create its value. It is not trying hard to make silence be a productive thing to do. It is allowing it to show up as it wills. Resting in silence is not knowing what silence will bring, or if it will bring anything at all. It is in the allowing, the releasing of outcome, – this is when the rest happens.
I look up to see the sun is shining through needles and branches of a towering Norway Pine. There are glittering threads that hang, connecting branch to branch. They move gently with the breeze, and I know it is only in this moment of light that I can see the beauty of these webs hanging like garland on the tree. In a moment, the light will shift, and they will no longer be visible, but they will still be there in the branches, even if I can’t see them. So it is with silence.
In this next week, take a few moments to let the breeze blow in what it will, and let the silence rest over you without agenda, without the worry of a productive outcome. Notice how the silence shows you love. Let it touch the hard places of the heart, to massage them into softness again. Allow it to move into spaces you forgot were there.
Let the rest of silence surprise you.