Noise surrounds me. Even on a morning home alone, the planes buzz, the mowers grind, the washer hums. But more difficult to evade and mask is the raucous and endless noise in my head, the monkey mind. And the best parts of me long to BE STILL and KNOW GOD.
I know some ways of turning the noise down, externally and internally. I have learned that not turning on the radio and TV in the morning until I have had time for quiet helps to preserve the intimacy of my dreaming sleep. I know the places that hold the stillness more firmly where I dwell. I can choose to wait until later hours to let appliances loose.
However, maybe the most important spiritual practice that I can keep entering is that of becoming absolutely still, breathing in, breathing out, slowing my breath, focusing on a sacred word or image. But I am so squirrelly and antsy: my foot itches, my back hurts, I remember the phone call that needs to be returned. Even when I do become very still, I am always tempted, and sometimes succumb, to looking at my watch for the time. But lately, my soul is craving quiet and stillness so urgently that I am determined to practice stillness and silence until it becomes a more organic part of my interior rhythm.
For all its words, Hebrew and Christian Scripture invite us into silence as part of a sacred rhythm. Cadences are set in many liturgies: The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence. Elijah’s pyrotechnical encounter with the Holy led to the sound of sheer silence. The drama unfolds in the Book of Revelation with the opening of the seventh seal followed by silence in heaven for about half an hour. Sound and silence.
How will I pursue the silence which mysteriously opens and fills me? here are some hopes and paths into the sacred rhythm:
- preserving morning quiet inside my home and psyche by waiting until after intentional silence of 15 minutes or more to begin any work or social activity, like turning on the computer or reading the paper, or loading the dishwasher. One thing is necessary.
- attending to my breath, making sure that it is natural, but slow and even, praying Breathe on me, Holy Spirit; breathe in me, Breath of God.
- setting my gentle chimes on my cell phone to ring when my time of silence is complete, leaving my watch off.
- remembering my sacred word or image that calls me back to the attentive silence.
- as distractions arise, find the right holding place for them until the right time emerges to respond.
- honoring the time I have been silent with thanksgiving to the Holy One for the holy sound of sheer silence.
I am beginning a new job, back to commuter madness, packed schedules, thousand of voices around my ankles crying “mend my life,” as Mary Oliver says. I can only do that if I have given myself to Holy Presence daily, maybe more often, so that when I emerge, I will have eyes to see, ears to hear, heart ready to open to the invitations awaiting.
Rumi says, “No more words. Hear only the voice within.” I trust that voice from within to be the voice of the Spirit who in the silence prepared me for the noises around me .