"Peace, Be Still"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
Something happened to me this morning that really enhanced my awareness of the importance of silence in my life.
As a rule I get up just before dawn so that I can go outside and sit quietly as the sun rises in the desert skies. Thankfully, I live in this desert region where it’s always pretty quiet (especially at daybreak before most people have ventured out to start their day), but this morning I suddenly realized that even when I’m quiet, I’m often not silent.
As I sit quietly at the break of day I often hear the smartphone in my pocket emitting various beeping or buzzing sounds, notifying me of of “breaking news" stories or informing me of incoming messages, mail or texts. In the midst of the quiet I also hear the faint sound of the morning news on the public radio station coming from inside my house, I hear the sounds of my wife getting ready for work, the sounds of the dogs rustling around, sometimes car doors slamming in the background.
This morning I “accidentally” left my smartphone inside and for some reason or other there were no sounds coming from inside my house or from the neighborhood…that’s when I realized that, even though I may be quiet, I am rarely silent. I also realized how restorative and healing the silence was for me.
I think of something Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said about the sounds of silence:
Silence is often described as the absence of sound and yet
silence is a very powerful sound.
When you’ve been able to establish silence
you begin to hear the deepest kind of calling within yourself.
This morning as the sun rose in the red skies of a desert morning and as I basked in the powerful and healing sounds of a silence that went beyond quiet, it struck me that silence isn’t something that just happens. You have to establish silence, you have to intentionally mute all the noise, especially in a world that is always so full of chaos.
I think about how much noise and almost constant information continually bombards our senses almost every waking moment of our day. From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep at night, regardless of where we are, we are always immersed in a sea of sound. We engage in conversations, attend meetings or peck away at a computer. Music is often playing as we browse through mail and texts and check out the newest posts on social media, and almost everywhere I go nowadays CNN or or FOX news seems to be droning on in the background reporting the latest crisis in today’s volatile political climate - 24 hours of constant noise and information filling the air and assaulting our senses.
For most of us, even when we try to sit quietly (which doesn’t happen very often) we are rarely silent and so we rob ourselves of that holy opportunity for healing and restoration that true silence affords us. This morning, my heightened awareness of the importance of silence that goes beyond quiet motivated me to become much more intentional about establishing silence in my life on a regular basis every day.
It seems to me that any one of us can make some time to establish silence. We all can turn off radios and TVs and iTunes, press a button to mute the smart phone instead of endlessly checking out Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and all those endless messages that come at us every day. We can turn away from the desk at work or home or school and even if only for a few brief moments, go outside, take a walk, find a quiet corner somewhere, take a few deep breaths and establish silence, the powerful and healing sounds of silence.
The Buddha taught his disciples that they would only be able to find the deeper peace they sought by emptying and quieting their minds.
Tame the mind.
It rushes here and there swifter than the wind and more slippery than the water.
If you can arrest the flights of the mind,
happiness will ensue.
As I see it, this ancient wisdom has more relevance in our own times than ever before. So don’t just take the time to be quiet, make the time to be silent.