"A Deep Stillness"
Very early this morning, as I woke up I heard a sound I rarely hear out here in the desert where I live - the rumblings of thunder in the mountains, echoing through the deep wilderness canyons. As a boy I was afraid of the sound of thunder, later in life I probably would have never even heard the sounds of distant thunder because I was so distracted most of the time; but now I have come to cherish it and bask in the richness of its sound.
This morning as I listened in reverent silence to the thunder at the dawn of the day, I reflected on just how much I had always resisted silence throughout most of my life. I concluded that my resistance probably stemmed from my need to always be in control. When I filled my mind with my thoughts, spoke incessantly using my words and filled the hours of the day with my activity, at some level I felt somehow that "I" was in control of it all – the world was operating according to my agenda.
It seems to me that I have often “fit right in” to the popular culture of today's busy world, in which most people are so preoccupied with their own thoughts that they hardly do any listening at all – and silence is to be avoided at all cost. Most people are always “insanely busy,” emails and iPhones, pecking away at a computer, everyone so involved in their own thinking. People often "hear" but hardly ever take the time to actually "listen" to a world outside of themselves. Even in quiet times, when sitting alone, people often find themselves engaged with their own thoughts, preoccupied with their worries and regrets or planning for the days to come.
As I sat and basked in the utter stillness of this morning’s desert dawn, I thought of something Zen master and monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said about silence:
Silence is often described as the absence of sound and yet
silence is a very powerful sound.
Living in a desert has taught me a great deal about the sounds of silence – when I listen in silence it’s not like I hear no sounds, it’s more like I hear more sounds, maybe even all the sounds outside of my own isolated self, sounds that I often missed before because I only wanted to hear the sound of my self.
This morning as I sat in the deep stillness of the dawning day I heard the distant thunder, I also heard the wind swooshing in the palm trees, the sand blowing around in my garden, the sound of a chirping bird with a song of hope for a day about to dawn. In the silence there were more sounds rather than no sounds.
Buddhists often talk about the importance of deep listening as a discipline on the path of enlightenment. As I walk my spiritual path, I want to do more than be a better listener, I want to be a deep listener – I deeply listen when I pay attention to the sounds of all that is not me.
Thich Nhat Hanh also said:
When you've been able to still all the noise inside of you,
when you've been able to establish silence, a thundering silence,
you begin to hear the deepest kind of calling within yourself.
In the thundering silence of this morning’s dawn, I also realized that my resistance to silence in my life has also profoundly influenced the way I pray and deeply affected my experience of “God” who is beyond my own thoughts and ideas.
I have always “said my prayers,” but my prayers, like the rest of my life, were always filled with my sounds and my words - and so in a very real sense this even left me in control of “God” who I was able to keep at arms' length.
As I listened to the deep stillness of this morning’s dawn I could hear the sounds that were not me and experience a power that was beyond me –I was listening deeply to the voice of “God”.
And so I breathe into the utter silence of a dawning day and and I surrender to it. I let go of my ego and melt into a wild, passionate, mysterious presence, a power that cannot be contained.