Be Still and Know That I Am God:
I speak to You.
Know That I Am God.
These are the opening words of the evocative Prayer of Enoch. We start at the beginning-Be Still. It is an invitation to stop, to listen and to rest in the Infinite shelter of the Great Silence which is the homelands we came from before we were born and where we return to when we put down our earthly bodies. The monk or mystic within us all craves this silence, knowing it to be the food of our Soul and the source of our wellbeing. Yet whether we live in the enclosed spaces of a monastery or the monastery without walls, silence is the opportunity and challenge that we have to allow ourselves to achieve. Many in these days equate silence as an absence of noise and empty-a void-and they fear entering it because of its lack of distraction.
To enter the silence can be disconcerting to start with-for rather than finding it empty, we find it is full, rich-pregnant and we meet ourselves-with nowhere to hide, recognising our vulnerability. We view our mortality. So we crave it and avoid it in equal measure until we learn to abide within it. Once that has been achieved it is desired above all else for its gifts to us of peace, companionship, balance, infinite love and the true knowing of our eternal nature.
“Soon, silence will have passed into legend, Man has turned hs back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devises that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life-contemplation and meditation…tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a grey vegetation”-Jean Arp.
Silence is a casualty of modernity. In gentler times when life mirrored natures more measured rhythms and when external noise was at a minimum, the harsh sounds of our present day lifestyle did not intrude upon the senses and bodies of our ancestors. Nowadays-much of our subconscious awareness is geared to shutting out the peripheral sounds of machines that grind, whirr and speed past. The car and lorry cannot be compared to the gentle clip clop of horse and rider; neither can the jet engine of modern-day travel. As you read this, just stop a moment and consciously return to the world and listen to the noise that surrounds you at this very moment in time. That is the noise that you are spending energy shutting out most of the time.
Birdsong almost comes as a surprise when people hear it for the first time away from the din of man-made noise-as do the spectacular sight of stars and the Milky Way when people get away from light pollution. In the UK we now receive 16% less sunlight than we did back in 1997, and Hong Kong receives 37% less than it did. More on that in another post. A weekend rest time away from work is usually accompanied by an intrusive cacophony of lawnmowers, strimmers and any manner of other activities going on in neighbouring gardens and properties. Inside the house there is constant background noise-the radio, the TV, computer games, DVD’s-anything and everything to distract us from ourselves and the Infinite Loving Silence. Travel outside the home and we find 24 hour shopping malls filled with piped music, multiplex cinemas, bowling alleys and all varieties of noise to choose from, willing to take our entry fee. It is as if modern-day humans will do anything to avoid spending time with themselves within the companionship of silence. And it is making us sick-physically and mentally.
Yet contained within the silence lies our inner life-so rich and abundant-the wellspring that all of true and lasting value of ourselves comes from. The inner life has two main functions-the first-is as our Source, the link of knowing, where all we are is accessed. The second is to extend this outward to enhance the lives of others. First we fill ourselves of the sacred richness and then we extend to others. In spending time mindlessly in the pursuit of occupation and doing without deep inner silence-we effectively steal from ourselves and in our resulting impoverishment have less to offer others. Man becomes a puppet of passing fancy-a child in a fairground, asking “what next”?-always questioning, never satiated. This undoubtedly fuels a consumer society, but is doomed to implode as it cannot be sustained.
Immediacy is noisy. Things of value take more time to develop, they need to be nurtured and savoured. Knowing yourself for example is designed to take more than a lifetime..there will always be new facets for you to explore. You are the greatest mystery you will ever encounter-you were created to be that way. If you will allow it; the depths and currents of your life will constantly amaze and astound you. You can offer this rich harvest to others and it is in the silence that you will come to meet yourself. Silence, like darkness appears to have become something that frightens many-yet the pathos is that they are merely hiding from themselves. By thus reducing this expression of themselves -the vastness that we humans are in potential is also diminished-just as the light pollution hides the brilliance of our stars.
Silence is pregnant, ripe and full in its potential. It holds in its shelter the natural state of union between Creator and Created. yet the mindless babble constituting what conversation is understood by many to be is a mere shadow of true communication-which is soundless and without form.
Honest and valuable verbal communication requires respect and integrity. It involves honouring your vision, savouring, engaging and understanding it before choosing the appropriate method of expression. Emerging from the Silence comes the Word; the Holiest sound in the Universe, manifest and unmanifest. The Word creates form. To listen and speak in a fully engaged manner is a skill that is developed from the hours spent in the company of the Infinite Silence. In the famous song by Simon and Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence, the lyrics mention, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening. This describes reality for many nowadays.
In Silence we receive vision. It is not necessary for us to express knee jerk opinion at all times and in all situations. Indeed to do so can induce a state of shallowness that is the fruit of a lack of time taken to ponder, to converse with the silence within; for it is always the smaller personality that jumps in with its hollow unconsidered opinions.
In 2003 I wrote the following in my diary following a request by a friend for an opinion regarding our going to war with Iraq: Every now and again, a response wells up from deep within me that asks to be allowed expression-and these I offer to a wider audience willingly and with Love. But they are as stars littered across the vast distance of space. That sacred space must be attended and honoured for that is where quietude and reflection abide. To ignore this sacred space of silence goes against the deepest urgings of my Soul and much of my time is spent there.
This does not enable a lot of social interaction-in fact it requires exactly the opposite. In a world that is filled to over brimming with means of communication, so little of what is of value is expressed, and people are lonelier than ever. Yet the richness of valid and lasting revelation is the way in which it unfurls its delicate petals as it follows the suns path. It cannot be hurried or given the deadline of urgency that a phone call demands. We step all too willingly out of our natural inner rhythms, distracted by differing versions of the illusory world and in doing so risk becoming alienated and fractured from the silent world within from which all truth emanates. When we have developed the ability to live in the state of untroubled inner silence, we truly live in the world and yet are not of it.