entering Silence is a death
the Silence invites us to unbecome
we are undressed of being something and somebody
and, for those who allow this, the relief is quietly ecstatic
While it is true Silence is everywhere, as everywhere is in Silence, and we can enter the Silence anytime, often there is need to seek places conducive to solace, to relaxing into the Quiet. One need not feel guilty or weak or unspiritual for this need. Rather, for some of us, we are wise to find such a place to visit often, maybe daily, while others of us may choose to locate at a particular location altogether, for an environment more complementing our felt-call to live from the Silence and often contemplate in silence.
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Some of us have a natural inclination to silence, so holy Silence. This appeared for me early in life. My mother, likewise, was a quiet, contemplative soul, while my dad had a gift for words. Each, in different ways, shared kindness. One of my early favorite places to visit were cemeteries. I lived largely isolated, in a rural, farming venue, with a cemetery about one-quarter of a mile away. I could stand in the front yard and see the graveyard. No other dwelling lay between. The only time I did not like visiting it was at night. It felt spooky to me, but not in the day. When walking home after night worship at the nearby church, my legs would get rushy, my spirit unsettled, due to that illogical but primordial fear of wandering ghouls.
Here, I could be alone, alone in a way alone no where else. A cemetery, in day, was soothing to me, peaceful. We even had a saying of those who had died, "Resting in peace." Yet, I did not believe anyone was resting there, under the ground. I had been taught everyone, immediately after death, would go to a heaven or hell. Now, my dad said he did not believe that, that we remain in those graves until a resurrection day, at the end of time. Likely, that is why he so disliked my choice for my body to be cremated, not buried. He wanted me in the ground until being raised up, I wanted this body to be ashes at the foot of a tree, somewhere up some mountain, to be part of a continuing life, not my waiting to return to my being alive.
Here, among the bones, no one was talking, no one demanding attention, no one giving attention. Old, white-washed tombstones, some falling into the ground, and faded plastic flowers blown over by the wind, as well as more modern and recent burial sites; and all this including names, pictures, and sacred words on headstones, reminded me of a good death, the death of distraction, of noise, of needing to be someone. The silence of the graveyard seemed to silence my soul, and my soul seemed drawn to the quiet I discovered among the mute remains, vestiges of the past.
* * *
At least for me, I find a cemetery to be one of the most likely places not to be disturbed. Rarely does anyone visit, most do not want to visit, preferring to stay away ~ to visit the dead is to be reminded of death. If they do visit, they stay briefly, walk around silently, and leave quietly, as though afraid to disturb the dead. There is not even any background music or advertisements or local or national news. No billboards to be seen. I like that, though I do not feel the same need or wish to visit cemeteries now, even as I do not frequent empty churches anymore. I still find places to get away, to be nobody, to heighten the senses to the Quiet.
* * *
As we sat in Silence, a little group of three on a snowy morning outside and the warmth of Grace inside, the beautiful sound of borborygmi, often called stomach growling, arose repeatedly for a time. I heard this to my left. Yet, these sounds were not a disturbance, an intrusion, an interruption, a distraction, rather each ascent and descent, like perfectly orchestrated cadence, was a pleasing hymn to ears and heart. Joyful this Rite of Stomach Gurgling, a rite as right as any rite.
* * *
The story is told of a Christian, born in Germany 1066, later to be a bishop in the Catholic Church. He is known as Saint Benno, or Brother Benno. This Benno, one of three highly esteemed in Catholic lore, would enter the fields for prayer and contemplation. Once, Benno passed a murky marsh. In the marsh a talkative frog croaked on and on. Benno commanded the frog to become one of the Seraphim ~ angelic beings in Jewish and Christian religion ~, for all the frogs were silent in Seraphus, the abode of Seraphim, possibly Heaven. He walked on in quiet prayerfulness, recalling a scripture from the Book of Daniel about creatures, like whales and cattle, praising his Lord. Benno became concerned, for the singing of the frogs might be more inviting to his God than his own prayers. So, he relented of his prior charge and instructed the frogs to praise God, as was their custom. Shortly, frog song was heard again, croaking sound filling sky and fields.
* * *
I found this an endearing tale, one that instructs us on the nature of Silence. Silence is inclusive, not excluding sound, even sounds that may displease us, may seem to grate on our nerves. No sound is adverse to Silence, even though heard as mere noise, while much sound in modernity is not conducive to a quiet spirit either. As you are drawn into Silence, you will sense attraction to honor that by relating to what cultivates your relationship with Silence.
* * *
Now, back to that meeting of three in Silence... I did not need to understand the gurgling sound, to intellectualize about it. I had never even heard what are the causes and conditions giving rise to stomach growling, or that it is also called stomach gurgling. I did not know the growling is actually most likely arising from the convergence in the small intestine of liquid and gas and air and digestive juices. I simply listened to, not merely heard, the sound. In that listening, distance is dissolved between the sound and you; in resolution of the distance, is actualization of communion.
* * *
Intellectualizing can distance us from the purity of what arises. So, when we find ourselves thinking about a sound, we can release that and simply relate with the sound. Yes, a litany of stomach gurgling can be sacramental, even as can be frog croaking.
* * *
One could logically inquire, "But what happens when a sound simply distracts me, and I cannot seem to change that, regardless of how I try to accept it gracefully?" Well, there are means taught in wisdom paths to work with that, and, likely, it happens to anyone who seeks to live from the Silence. After living a contemplative life for 28 years, some sounds still seem to grate at my nerves. And those, too, arise from and are included in the Silence. So, do not judge yourself for certain sounds are useless and irritating noises to you. The irritation equally belongs in the Silence. It is not about you. Sometimes we need to accept that we simply and strongly dislike something, and that opens up the possibility of a new relationship with it, one we could not allow in our resistance to it. So, while you may not be able to make something distracting be not-distracting, you can soften your resistance to it. Things tend to soften for us, when we soften toward them.
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
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