Walking across Central Park one morning on my way to my office, I was aware of a cacophony of insect sounds all around me. It reminded me of when I lived in the Berkshires, where summer nights were filled with the songs of tree frogs and insects. Something about being enfolded in all that beautiful sound also reminded me of times I’ve been in landscapes with waterfalls, or near the ocean, where complete silence is never present, except in the momentary pause between waves on the shore.
As the enthusiastic insect songs accompanied me that particular morning, it got me to thinking about the place each of us has inside that embodies silence, no matter what may be going on around us. Our culture doesn’t tend to promote a conscious relationship with this aspect of ourselves, but deep inner quiet is always available somewhere deep inside each of us.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to explore where the silence resides in you. For some people, it may be found at the bottom of the out-breath, if you follow that exhalation all the way down inside. For other people it’s in the heart, where they find a quiet place where they can rest. For others, it’s in the core of their abdomen. For others, it’s in their head. Wherever you find yours, take some time this week to orient to where you find your place of inner silence. When you locate it, spend some time there no matter what may be going on around you and notice your experience.
Many people have tinnitus, which is a condition of constant sound of some kind in the ears. For some, there’s a hissing. For others, there’s a tone or loud sound that simply doesn’t go away. With this kind of condition, inner silence may be challenging to find and yet it’s possible here, too. What many of us with this condition discover is that the constant sounds can drift into the background of awareness, even though they never really go away.
Inner silence is more about a state of being than a lack of sound. It’s more a felt-sense of settling, of being solidly planted inside yourself, of having landed and being able to enjoy staying landed for a little while. It invites a quieting of the chattering mind, so it’s helpful to allow thoughts to become a background activity, kind of like leaves and twigs floating by on the surface of an ever-flowing stream, and to do this without any kind of struggle or demand. Your intention is to find your inner silence and the intention to do this is what moves into the foreground of awareness.
I recall reading some research that spoke to how important silence is for brain development. For those of us who live in environments where external silence is hard to come by, cultivating our inner silence can be a great gift. And, if the word “silence” doesn’t quite fit your experience, notice if an inner “quieting” or “settling” feel more like what you unfolds for you.
As with all these practices, there’s really no right way to do this one. It’s an invitation to explore your unique relationship with inner silence, quiet, and stillness in whatever ways naturally arise for you. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, as it helps create that openness that can lead to new discoveries along the way. And, be sure to remember to pat on the head any judgments that may arise and to let them move on through…