Embracing Solitude

I seek silence. Away from my baby’s incessant demands, away from the madness of world events, away from talking points and talking heads, away from analysts and experts, away from the clamor disguised as music, away from constructed noise channels that refuse to leave me alone.

Even as I shut down everything around me, I don’t revel in complete silence. The constant hum of electricity penetrates my senses, the distant wail of an ambulance speaks of an urgency far away, the banging of a neighbor’s door, a car zooming past. I am trapped in a concrete jungle and my soul weeps for a distant time I can’t seem to recall…

Rhythmic sound of ocean waves gently rocking me to sleep, the whispers and intrigues of leaves that used to scare my imaginative mind into overdrive, the rustle of the trees whose crowns are ruffled by a blowing breeze, howling of a distant dog…I remember, yes, I remember. Waking up to the noisy caw-caw of crows before the roosters take over giving way to a multitude of Muezzins adhans stirring believers’ souls to Dawn’s prayer of thanksgiving. When organic texture of sound has been replaced by synthetic ones.

Even when I manage to uncover a sacred moment, divested of outside clamor, even as I block out the everyday humdrum of necessary beats, I can’t find that stillness. My brain is noisy, churning bits and pieces of seeped in voices, snatches of conversations, unfinished arguments, plans and more plans, half done to-do lists that never get accomplished; my mind is ceaseless in its workings, I can’t stop its dizzying spins.

Sometimes I pick up the Quran, trying to lose myself in verses magnifying the Most High. What better way than to channel the spirit upwards? Sometimes as I read a verse, I have to re-read it again and again, to sneak it past my rambling mind, let its meaning flood my senses. Other times, I try to remember God, calling Him by all His names and gently chiding my subconscious to gather herself and be present in front of such an Honorable Audience. Other times, I let my mind play itself out like a film reel to where the credits start rolling and I can spend a moment or two in the darkened theater of my soul, letting her speak at last.

Small hidden truths come bubbling to the surface. Sometimes she speaks of sadness so deep and poignant it hurts to keep listening. A bitter sweet happiness may shyly look up to me, a sense of gratitude seeking to be heard. Sometimes I am all rawness inside; there are no words to demonstrate what true nakedness feels like. I am vulnerable then, aware of my aloneness, cognizant of the “No Exit” signs all around me. There is no escape. Even time lays down her hands to eavesdrop on this seldom heard conversation.

I can’t tell you of the pain of getting past the fortresses of defense mechanisms I have built all my life, neither can I say more of my own soul’s discourse. I will have to pull a gentle curtain on that scene, and spare you the torments of a struggling and failing mortal.

We live in a noisy world. If the “tragedy of modern man is his inability to sit quietly in a room by himself” then we need to shut down everything around us and force our selves to re-learn that bitter sweetness of self discovery.

A little word from a man much greater and wiser than I:

And a man said, “Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.”

And he answered, saying:

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.

You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.

You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;

And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;

And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”

For the soul walks upon all paths.

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.

The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.



Maliha Balala lives in Maryland and adores mommying her two boys, reading, running in pretty places (okay more like jogging!), writing and daydreaming of all the things she still wants to do when she grows up.

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