The Wisdom in Silence

Thursday , 7, August 2014 Leave a comment

As I’m working my way through my new text book on various contemplative practices and how to incorporate them into the classroom, I’m trying to do the mini-activities along the way to get a feel for what I’m reading.

Tonight I read and practiced a little “meditation on sound” (what they call it–not sure if that’s a big official name or not).  Basically, I sat comfortably and listened.  I was instructed to listen without judgment and without naming sounds, and I found that part incredibly difficult to do.  Need some work on that.  The reel of thoughts in my head went something like, “Oh! That’s the Fed Ex truck out front!  …aaaannnnnd I’m letting that label drift away now as I just listen.”  Over and over.

What I loved about this activity, though, is that it required me to really stop the constant flood of thoughts racing through my brain.  Not only did it require my being still and physically silent myself, but in order to truly hear what was around me, my mind had to be quiet, too.  I LOVE that part, as it doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

I noticed first the obvious sounds–the rhythmic clicking and whirring of the ceiling fan.  The sound of the wind outside.  The occasional sound of a vehicle outside or of one of the neighbor kids shouting.  As I sunk further into the listening, though, more and more sounds became obvious–the ones that I miss on an average day.

Chaco (the brown dog) was on the couch next to me, and even though I didn’t feel him moving, I recognized the sound of his fur shifting against the couch when he repositioned himself.  I smiled as I realized that I know him well enough to recognize clearly even such a mundane, ambiguous sound.  In my silence, that sound wasn’t mundane–there was a sense of peace in knowing my furry friend and our routines so well.

The next sound surprised me–it was the ticking of a clock that hangs next to the TV in our living room, where I was sitting.  Throughout my life, ticking clocks have driven my insomnia-prone self crazy.  As a kid, I had to hide my sweet Swatch watch in a drawer under a pile of socks (in all fairness, the thing ticked louder than anything I’ve ever heard).  If I’ve ever slept at your house for more than a night, you know that I have to move clocks to distant rooms where they can’t disturb my sleep.

So, how is it that the ticking of this clock next to the TV only came into my awareness after I’d been sitting and listening for several minutes?  Interesting, I think.  As I sit here typing this in the same room as I sat in meditation earlier, I have to almost force myself to focus on hearing it (maybe the word is allow, not force).

I find myself questioning whether this is a clever strategy that my mind has developed over time (the ability to pretend that ticking clocks don’t exist), or if it’s a startling wake-up call to the realization of how many other sounds I likely drown out or flat-out don’t hear throughout the day.  I, like most people, I’m sure, like to believe that I know what’s going on around me.  My time in silence made me doubt that belief.

And, while I appreciate my mind’s ability to filter out the sounds that are less important, I’m left a bit uncomfortable wondering what I’m hearing and not hearing–and questioning whether being more mindful about both would lead to less stress.  Or even lead me to, heaven forbid, actually showing up places on time.

I mean, if I were to hear that ticking all the time…

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