Wednesday, December 28, 2011

where have you experienced deep silence?

Not so long ago I led a session at a multifaith conference on 'Silence in Religious Traditions'. Participants shared their experences but I won't forget a comment made by a Swedish woman who said that her experience of deep silence came from being in the forest in the snow.

I too have experienced deep snow and there is no doubt that a landscape takes on a more silent quality as sound is muffled. Two years ago staying at Valamo monastery in eastern Finland it was such a joy to explore the birch forests. I almost expected to meet St Seraphim of Sarov in that setting and somehow solitude, the encounter with holy or sacred places where people practice the discipline of silence seems to deepen and focus the experience.

I am entering this new week with a greater sense of personal refreshment after leading a Mindfulness Meditation Day at the delightful setting of the Avocado farm at McLaren Vale. We spent the day in silence, without conversation, the only speaking at the feedback sessions after practicing a meditation and the experience was profound I think for most of us.

A day without speaking means that our energy is drawn to our immediate experience and into our sensory awareness. A community in silence must pay attention to every person but there is no requirement for small talk and conversation where we are constantly seeking to respond and adjust. Our silence at the retreat day brought extra respect into our interaction.

Can we remember an experience of profound and healing silence and in our imagination revisit that time and bring some of that memory to refresh us especially when surrounded by stressful soundscapes that we can't readily escape?

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