Prompted by a recent article in the Saturday Guardian, I've started reading 'A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland. I'm only a little way into it, but it is already proving to be a really fascinating read. When I'm reading a good book, whether fiction or non-fiction, I can find myself inhabiting its realm, allowing it to speak to me. I connect in a heart-felt way. I can find emotional and spiritual feelings are being persuaded to open up and be turned around by it. Once the book is read, then this apparent synchronicity of mood may pass, or abate. The two books by Abbot Christopher Jamison, resulted in a return of craving for an experience of a more monastic style of life. Sara Maitland's book has prompted a more gentle pondering, a quieter yearning for more silence. Aspirations, can often have a different orientation, standing divided, and resembling a double-headed mythical beast. A raucous and noisy outward engagement coming from one head, whilst a silent reflective inward contemplation comes from the other. Most of the time I'm somewhere in between like an umpire, with my attention first being drawn to one side, and then the other.
Maitland points out that the experience of silence becomes so muti-faceted and subtly graded, because absolute silence is not achievable. So what exactly do I mean when I say 'I want to experience more silence in my life'? It's easy in the rush towards certainty, to conclude that solitude and silence are like conjoined twins, so inseparable that the one cannot be alive without the presence of the other. But, neither silence nor solitude necessarily demand this. It's as possible to be as boisterous in the midst of solitude, as it is to experience 'a silent way of being' in the midst of chaos. The external and internal worlds don't have to be in states that mirror each other. Yet, whilst external circumstances don't need to be silent in order for 'a silent way of being' to arise, it is a great help if they are. To touch on a deeper experience of silence, we do seem to need isolation from the unquiet clattering and rolling mayhem that our societies daily functioning produces. Being physically on one's own, and not surrounded by the usual noise making ephemera of a radio, TV, computer or mobile phones, is a prerequisite for silence to be drawn into closer proximity. There needs to be some silence in the land, first.
For myself, the main impulse for seeking external silence, can be when the levels of internal cacophony rise beyond what is containable. So in saying 'I need to experience more silence in my life', though an external silence of the land, sea and sky is essential, its really only the vital precursor to the cultivation of inward silence, of the mind, heart and spirit. As regular readers of this blog will know, I can become affected by a disquiet spirit, and this can whip up the surface emotions into a perfect storm. Meditation does help, at best its a stiller, more silent sense of being me that is made manifest. This side of enlightenment it only temporarily calms the restless mind, the anxious heart and the uneasy spirit. I cannot always bring such quiescence to my work. Customer Services is, by its very nature, a disturbed, or disturbing, beast. The daily conversational menu consists largely of beings unhappy with how reality has turned out. As a consequence they're seeking some form of compensation or consolation from us. It's perennially interactive, discursive, and challenging and in a way that's not conducive to a silent mind, heart, or spirit.
My thoughts often wander off into speculative fantasy, about an ideal job or better vocation - somewhere else. Sometimes I'm simply so 'off with the fairies' in desperate need to be grounded, to be earthed, be forced to land. In the landing can come a 'silence of the mind.'
My emotions, like most peoples, are strongly affected by the external forces and gravitas of mind and body, plus the swirl of planetary influences, the external relationships with others that bring a level of existential insecurity into our being. I frequently need to becalm my emotional sea, before a 'silence of the heart' can emerge.
My spirit, if both my mind and heart are restless, can be set about by disquiet, a compulsion I cannot easily break free from. Over the years I've gradually become more adept in the practice of letting go, to cultivate the 'sky like' attitude. Instead of jousting with the storm clouds, I can allow the thunder and lightening to pass relatively unhindered. Well, at least, that's the idea of what I'd like to happen. Sometimes the hooks go in far too deeply. Yet, without the 'sky like' attitude informing my mind, my heart and my spirit, there can be no 'silencing of the disquieted spirit' - no place for silence to land and permanently take root.