Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pause and Rest

"A Tranquil Moment"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

When weekends come around I am always transported to memories of my childhood days when Sunday was treated as a Day of Rest. Most stores were closed so you couldn’t go shopping, there was no internet so you couldn’t spend the day surfing the web or sending emails, no one went to work on that day, some people went to church, most everyone just sat around and rested from the busyness of a week of work or school.

I recall many Sundays when we just sat around and basically “hung out” – sometimes we went to a movie or took a walk, always gathering for an evening meal.

According to today’s standards I guess you might say that, “back in the day” Sundays were pretty boring; but in retrospect I always enjoyed that Day of Rest; and to this very day I try to carve out some Sabbath time in my busy life - some devoted time for doing nothing except to rest and pause.

I am an avid music fan, mostly classical and jazz or folk - I listen to music all the time. I guess that's why I was so struck by something I once read from Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise.

In music there are moments of 'rest,' of no sound.
If those spaces weren't there, it would be a mess.
Music without moments of silence would be chaotic and oppressive.
That space between notes is very, very powerful, very meaningful.
It is more eloquent than any sound,
The soundless can be more pleasant, more eloquent than any sound.

I hadn't actually thought about this before - the musical sound of "no sounds," the importance of the rests and spaces. So I thought I'd listen to some music with new ears and new awareness by listening for the spaces. I was amazed at what I discovered.

I put on some of my favorite classical music and discovered that it was brimming with interpretive pauses and poignant rests. The entire piece had a whole new meaning because of the spaces. I then put on a local jazz station and noticed the same thing, and I immediately remembered something I once read a few years back that had slipped my mind up to now - an interview with the renowned  Jazz composer-trumpeter, Miles Davis, who said this of his music:

The space you leave is as important as the sound you make.

In his book, Thich Nhat Hanh wasn't talking about music because he is a music critic but because he is a spiritual guide. The lesson we can learn about the importance of spaces in music is a lesson we can learn about the importance of making spaces on a spiritual path.

In some sense our lives do indeed flow on like a musical composition, and it seems to me that in this busy and chaotic world of everyday living there are few spaces in that music. It's one endless task after another, always thinking, always running, and this nonstop music quickly becomes chaotic and oppressive without the rests and the spaces.

How easy it would be to punctuate the daily routine of everyday living with meaningful, mindful "no-sounds." Maybe a breathing space of a minute or so in the middle of sending out the endless emails and making the reports, just pause and rest from time to time - just close your eyes, clear the mind with a few deep breaths, mindfully awake, a brief space, a little rest in the music from time to time. 

Any one of us can find a way to insert small "rests" throughout the flow of our everyday routine - rests that can indeed be more "eloquent" than all the other sounds our life might make.

The space you leave is as important as the sound you make.

No comments:

Post a Comment