On Silence

In my last post I talked about twin fawns who had wandered into the yard and were seemingly lost or abandoned.  Two days after that post, I came upon a one-antlered buck, a doe, and FIVE fawns! 

As I walked past them, the buck took three fawns with him to one side of the road while the doe took the other two to the other side of the road. They each put the fawns behind them and stood facing me in a challenging stance, as if to say, "Don't come any closer."

It seems adoption is alive and well in the animal kingdom. We humans could learn a lot from them. Hillary Clinton was right. It really does "take a village."

One of the things that amazes me most about deer is how they guide and protect their young without making a sound. Just a flick of the tail, or a look, is all that's needed. Another is how they can move so quietly through the woods, rarely even breaking a twig, in spite of their size and weight.

Recently, I spent time on a silent retreat and I noticed that as the days progressed we all began to walk a little slower and more quietly, so as not to disturb the silence. Sounds of all kinds became more noticeable and I found myself walking softly, aware of every step, choosing clothes to wear that wouldn't "swish" when I moved, even leaving the light off in the bathroom so the noise of the fan wouldn't interrupt the quiet. At meals I began gently lowering my fork so as not to clank against my lunch plate. Doors were opened and closed with care. Shoes remained outside the door. 

I can remember a time when so much silence would have made me anxious and when meditating for two minutes was one minute fifty-eight seconds too long. To drive in the car without turning on the radio was unthinkable. The TV provided background noise if nothing else. 

Now I'm making 10-day silent retreats where I meditate for 10+ hours each day. How is that possible? And why would anyone want to spend their time that way?

The answer to the first question is, "Practice, practice, practice." That's why they call things like prayer and meditation spiritual practices

As for the second question, I think Mother Teresa says it best: "We need to find God, and God cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."

Mahatma Gandhi said, "Speak only if it improves upon the silence." And yet we fill the empty spaces in our lives with so much talking.

So here's the question: why are we so afraid of silence?