I had always hoped that one day I would learn how to stay silent when it mattered. Silence, Rama has always taught me, is where life is created, where the growth occurs. Noise, the noise of the mind, the noise of talking, the noise of the outside world, is what prevents us from being still and so Rama said; in the silence is the sound of Source. Yet as a child I would rabbit on, as a teen I talked too much when I felt nervous and so, as an adult, I still have to keep a check on when I need to just be silent.
Because I am attempting to practise the art of silence I am fascinated by those who have mastered it, and those who have not. Let’s begin with those who have not. Meandering about one afternoon at the park my family and I ran into a friend of a relative. They began talking quite normally at first, casually you could say, until something rather odd happeneded. Their own course of conversation began to darken, their own thoughts about their teenage child took a turn for the worse, and it seemed to me, standing there mouth open, that this person was not able to pull themselves out of their downward spiral into self confessed doubts. Each spoken word that followed the next was born, like a vile abomination, gross and bloodied until I saw in her face sheer embarrassment. She just could not stop what she was saying and her own insecurities created this awful scene of unguarded speech that rendered her looking quite undone. I managed to keep my response to a minimum and left the scene, my own teens in tow, feeling relieved that I had not said more because this on many occasions, I had done the same and was shamefully relieved for once it was not me who had spilled the sullied beans. So what is it about us as human beings that cannot pick those moments when we should be silent, and actually BE silent!? Why do we not have the self awareness, or even the self preservation to just shut the tally ho up!
Looking at this from the other side of the shore, where the silent ones stand, I see there are many positives to staying silent in situations where we interact with others. A good silent listener makes one feel heard. My husband and I had decided to rebuild our tiny house. Like mice we flit in and out of the small spaces trying not to bang into each other and so an architect was engaged and we sat down to discuss the build. He had a soft, gentle face with a look of bemusement and warmth that immediately opened us up. We sat opposite at the dining table, where other household members politely squished past between wall and chair. He opened his questionnaire and began. The first question was; ‘What is it you want from your new home? What is personal to you?’ My other half looked at me and I at him, a bit shy and then we shared. I felt heard, really heard and seen as he sat silently cocking his head to one side, taking notes and smiling in between our breathy statements. Tears welled up in my eyes and I found myself relaxing the same way I used to as a child when I would play with my teddies in the warmth and security of our lounge room, bathed in complete peace and abandoned trust. I connected to myself in a way I had forgotten to do, simply because I felt heard. He had been silent the whole time, listening with his heart and head. But silence is not pure and free from darkness. In silence is agreement. Stand silently while another is attacked, not speaking, and you have justified brutality.
So where does the balance lie? Actually it has nothing to do with balance does it really. Well not entirely. If I truly delve into the dynamic behind speaking and staying silent, behind listening and wanting to be heard, at the heart of it all lies the self, the self swinging between altruism and self love, attack and withdrawal. The dynamics within the self determine whether we truly see and hear others and whether we are able to speak our truth without harm. Not truth with a capital T, but our personal truth. To get at the heart of the matter we have to ask, can we allow others to have their truth?
This is a big cog in the wheel of learning how to listen and how to speak from the heart, because knowing when to speak, or when not to speak all lies in this; are you coming from a place that resides in the light or the dark? To hear is to stop the need to give one’s opinion out of the need to be heard, and listen. To speak comes out of the need to speak one’s truth without the need to shove it down another’s throat, to be heard. The dynamic lies in the self. It lies in the ability to allow others their truth, while speaking your own without creating harm, without crossing boundaries and violating trust.
Since the last two years have passed into memory it has become clearer and clearer to me why my Spirit Guide has always taught me freedom from belief. I used to question him, why, how, how can I have no belief system if I live here on earth? I felt it must have made up who I was? But as I grew older I wondered, rather than questioned, what harm do belief systems create? War, hatred, division, separation… all stem from belief systems. I saw that fundamentalist thinking, no matter how beautiful it seemed to me as a way of being, created the most harm, was the biggest pendulum swinger of the self that held the most judgement. People die and kill for their beliefs. Lose the belief systems and fundamentalist thinking and the need to be heard, and from it arises unity. Speak only of oneness, that is what the other side has taught me; a way of speaking that is so foreign to my humanness.
So every day that I venture out, I practise. I try to live in peace and as Lobsang, my gentle guide from the Himalayas tells me time and time again when I want to shout in anger;
‘Do no harm.’
Then I feel the peace that comes from silence, from not needing to speak my truth and force it on others. It renders me blameless in the face of attack and calm in my heart and the image that holds me in this is the silence of a monk beneath towering, snow covered mountain peaks that I have never actually seen.