Let me start by saying “What a great song.” One of those songs that make you FEEL something. And let me also say that the sounds of silence are not by definition quiet. They often are quite loud, or at least very noticeable. But that would have everything to do with that fact that the usual noises in one’s head have stopped, if only for a little while. It is incredible how relaxing it is to listen to the sounds of silence. It’s like taking a long luxurious bath after a 30 mile hike. Not that I have taken a 30 mile hike, but if I had I’m sure that a bath would feel like the perfect ending. I started my journey into the sounds of silence when I was a youngster of 18.
Needless to say it changed the course of my life. My brain went from being a one-story suburban house to an extremely palatial mansion, in which I am still finding new rooms. There is so much to say about the Sound of Silence that it almost needs to be broken up into categories:
1. Effect on the brain
2. Effect on the body
3. Effect on the relationship between the brain and the body
4. Effect on other people’s brains and bodies, when in the presence of one who is experiencing their own sounds of silence
It is astounding how much we, as a race, have limited ourselves by what we perceive to be Truth. Unlike “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, Truth is not. It is absolute and defined. It takes a lifetime and beyond to understand. That is the beauty. We are always, if we choose, in a learning process.
When I went on my first retreat I was 18. I had been asked to join a three-week silent retreat by a person that I didn’t really know and immediately said “Ahhh no, but thanks.” Then off I went to my one-bedroom, one-bath noisy house in the burbs. But the invitation kept coming up in my head, followed quickly but the thought “never in a million years.” For some reason the fact that I was adamant not to accept this invitation started to make me more and more curious about why I was so against this seemingly benign little trip I was being offered. Suffice to say my curious side won out and I did go on a three-week silent retreat that summer.
Get up at 4:30!
Go and sit on a pillow for two hours! And watch my breath!
Have breakfast…no talking to the other people!
Wash up and go back and sit on my pillow for another two – three hours, watching my breath.
Eat, sit, eat, sit. Then sleep and do it again and again, for many days. After three days of this I was starting to get into the rhythm, a bit. But not really sure what I was supposed to be getting out of this. Then kaboom! When I wasn’t paying attention, out of left field comes this revelation, or we can call it a Truism. “Everything in my life is impermanent!” It wasn’t just a thought, but a gut feeling inside of me that hit me in a way I had never felt. It consumed my whole body and soul and I was shattered. I had never experienced such profound loss and sadness before. I couldn’t stop crying for days. Every time I thought it was over, it would hit me like a wave cresting over my body and I would be blubbering like a baby. Finally the storm let up and I was able to get back to my sit, eat, sleep routine with the rest of the group. But I felt profoundly changed inside. I felt as if a space had been opened up inside of me and it was filled with the cleanest, freshest air. I felt more like me than I had ever felt. It was if I had opened the door to my small cramped bungalow, walked outside into a completely new environment, never to return to the old one. I had started a journey into that silence that to me is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Time to listen and learn.
In the upcoming blog posts I will be exploring the many options that we have to go to and experience the great silence within, and to share the changes it has started in me.