I was having a lovely cup of tea with Jane Burdick and at some point in the conversation, there was this great silence between us which melted into laughter. And then it continued so long it was as if the laughter was so great it was just laughter laughing the laughter. It was a lovely moment and as the conversation continued we began to explore what this was. It was like silence that is alive. One of us used the words “living silence”. And this phrase has stayed with me since then.
What is living silence?
When I think of this expression it is to me the same as what I talk about with living levity. It is when we are at rest within ourselves and at the same time engaged in the experience of the world or living. There is a beautiful balance of being still within one’s being and in movement outside in daily living.
There are many practices to still and balance the mind/body-these can be meditation, yoga, dance etc or range to what we feel are unhealthier approaches such as drinking, partying, and substance abuse. Yet, all are aiming to bring the quiet within, either by opening to the stillness(aliveness) itself or in a desperate deluge to rid oneself of the noise.
What is the nature of this stillness, this silence, this aliveness?
The idea of living silence comes from the physical experience of it. When we slow down, I mean….slllloooooowwww down (this comes from a being who once knew great velocity) we begin to notice what is happening on a physical or “felt sense” level: how the breath feels entering our body, how the cells of our body are today, what the chest feels like. Is it hard to breathe? Does the breath flow easily? How does the belly feel physically (notice where the mind wants to assign an emotion or judgement to it)? This is simply an observation. How does the chest feel? Allow it to be purely a physical sensation (rather than emotional-unhappy, confused, joyful) Whatever you feel or sense whether it is relaxed, tense, open, tingly, whirling, etc sit with it and take a breath with it.
This is where it gets good. The next step is usually…”Oh I feel tension in my ribs, okay, I will now ‘try’ to relax it” No No no….just let it be. :) This is bringing in the vital element of wonder. We are simply taking a moment to wonder and “be with” the experience. So rather than trying to “shift” anything or transform the energy, just watch it and ask, “What is this?” as if you have never experienced the feeling before and so do not have a judgment of it. (Once you are accustomed to it, this noticing is great fun.)
As we get more comfortable just sitting with it, there comes to be a very alive quality in the sensation. When the perception of it being a good or bad sensation is let go of and we just wonder with it, we begin to notice a sort heartbeat and aliveness to the sensation.
Enjoy practicing this.
It is very palpable when we go into it. And in this, we sense a “livingness” in the silence that is infinite in its expression.
We begin to feel as if WE are being breathed, being lived, being danced in our every day. In this way, there is a aliveness that is flowing into and out of all things. And the sad news (one might say) is that it does not belong to us , and the good news (one might say) is that we belong to it. We are this living silence.
You are invited, however it may call you, to practice living as this silence whether it looks like the inquiry of simply noticing the body and wondering at how it feels instead of firmly knowing it through the mind’s eye. You can be an observer of it and wonder. Or you can inquire what it is like to live as this silence in every day. It has little to do with talking or not talking. It has more to do with the quality of aliveness and lightness. Notice how being devoted to the living silence guides or changes your daily patterns. What is it like?
And then slowly, we all come to see that this silence is indeed everywhere, it is the breath falling out of your body, it is the song washing into mine, and it is the wind in the cloud passing by, and in the laughter pouring between friends. It is everywhere within and without all existence. It is the essential fabric of our being here.