One of the places my spiritual practise has been guiding me lately is the cultivation of silence.
Silence can be a tricky thing to cultivate, because it’s not particularly rewarded in our society.
We live in a culture that is largely addicted to productivity, achievement and getting things done. These are all great, and I have built a life around attaining and expressing these things — but they’re only half the picture, and as soon as I have an automatic, “always-on” way of being in the world, I’m inevitably going to miss out on some of the abundance of life.
Cultivating silence is the practise of letting a field lie fallow for a while before you plant more crops. It’s the same reason an elite athlete incorporates periods of rest and breaks into their training regime.
Silence is a willingness to practise softness. To become permeable to the world, the people and the moment that surrounds you, rather than getting into more action.
To become silent requires a willingness to sit in things like boredom, listlessness, restlessness and so on.
Silence is tricky for me, because it requires more than a simple willingness to sit still.
I can “do” sitting still easily. I can just force myself to sit in place for twenty minutes, waiting for my timer to run down. I know that at the end of those twenty minutes, I can get back to doing whatever it is that seems really important for me to do next.
When I practise with silence, I turn off the timer. I release the safety of knowing I only have to do this for so long before I can get productive again. (sidebar: productive is code for “good busy”.)
Instead, I sit and breathe, and I listen. And usually along that journey, I pass through the gates of feeling frantic, or busy, or annoyed, or bored, or whatever else shows up.
Spirit often speaks to us in a whisper, as does our own internal wisdom. When I go quiet, I can start to hear that inner wisdom. I can start to notice the patterns in my thinking that seem to be recurring, and I can receive the wisdom that they might be here to offer me.
Practising silence means letting go of my need for things to be any different than they are. If I feel frustrated, I practise sitting in that frustration and letting it be, rather than trying to take action, or change my thinking to make it go away.
When I sit like this, I develop a deeper reverence for whatever is showing up, and let it be like a teacher for me.
Am I continually procrastinating on a particular task? What is the wisdom being revealed to me in that behaviour? (Maybe I actually don’t want to do it. Maybe I’m scared and I need to bring some love and attention to the part of me that’s scared.)
What supports you to cultivate silence?