"And I, infinitesimal being, drunk with the great starry void, likeness, image of mystery, I felt myself a pure part of the abyss, I wheeled with the stars, my heart broke free on the open sky." - Pablo Neruda
Have you ever experienced a Great Quiet? The kind of quiet that is so loud you listen to it? The kind of quiet you can’t imagine, but after you experience it, you notice the cacophony we create and live immersed in.
Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton: “Silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction.” He defines “real quiet as presence”.
Real quiet as presence. A presence that will hold you, unconditionally. A presence we get so used to the absence of, we don’t even know we miss it. We don’t even know how much it hurts to be apart from it.
I first consciously experienced the quiet sometime in my mid-30’s, car camping in Utah. Where we stayed there was no human made sounds except our own. When I sat noiselessly, I could hear the silence that enveloped me. At that moment, I experience a true awe- the visceral sense of fear, veneration and wonderment overtook me for several moments.
I returned to that area a few years later, this time alone. I was not trying to re-create the previous encounter; I only knew how good I felt when I was there and wanted more. This time I had several days to bask in the stillness. It was so still; I could hear what seemed to be the vibration of the Universe.
"I have heard the voice of the Universe and it is kind, like a mother and It says, do not be afraid"
I wish I could tell you that if you keep practicing, diligently, you will not need to go to a quiet place to hear the silence. But I don’t know that from my own experience. I have heard of and choose to believe the recounts of yogis who do hear the silence, whether in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India (aka “The Sleepless City”) or Abhayagiri Monastery near Redwood Valley, California. Last night, as the commute traffic zipped through my previously quiet neighborhood, I was well aware of how it drew me to react with agitation. Even during the yoga practice, after shutting all the windows and the door to deaden the noise outside, I my body and mind still felt the disturbance without and within.
You don’t need to stay permanently in the Quiet. That’s not the point of this writing. Like time with your mother, father, beloved friend, go visit, stay a while, and then get back to the busyness and the racket – those are good, too. In moderation. They, too, are of our natural human instinct to do, create, see ourselves through what we manifest.
I to encourage you to seek out is the Great Quiet. If you find it, sit and stay a while so that you can find out what happens in you while you are held in it.