When it’s 95 degrees outside and you are a tourist in a country that doesn’t believe in Air Conditioning, the only logical course of action is to spend your Friday night inside an art museum. To protect the artwork on display, the museum keeps constant cool temperature and low light. To protect the beauty of the artwork on display, the visitors keep tones muted and tend toward silence. Despite brash colors and daring impressionist strokes which scream of emotion and sensation in Van Gough’s masterpieces, the galleries were primarily silent. It reminded me that it is human nature to approach that which we find beautiful with silence.
Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”
Silence is elusive. Right now, even as I write this in the quietude of my backyard sanctuary, the silence of the early morning is vibrant with sound. Some of these sounds make me smile (remember this post?) and some of these sounds are fairly annoying. (My backyard neighbor is constantly hammering. After a year of this, I can’t imagine he has a single board left to hammer, and yet, here he is at eight in the morning hammering away…I have a few questions about this.) But beyond the sounds, silence is a presence. Silence can be its own being.
Silence can be something to meet and create a relationship with. Even if you don’t have a comfortable relationship with silence, as I naturally do, I think we all do this naturally when we encounter something beautiful.
Your challenge this week is to bring something beautiful into your meditation space. I brought a small vase of three Missouri Primrose blossoms to my meditation class yesterday and challenged my students to quiet their minds simply by gazing at the simple beauty of the flowers. No counting, no repeated mantras, no English, no Sanskrit, no striving—just meeting silence. In this way, we became captured by silence. I want you to spend some time thinking about this: how can I become captured by silence? How can I find something beautiful in silence?
Again from Richard Rohr:
“Silence precedes, undergirds and grounds everything…unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—all become superficial. They lose meaning.” – Richard Rohr
Silence, the primordial beginning and ending, bookends our most meaningful experience: life itself.
This week, let yourself be captured by silence, even if it is just for one minute.
Enjoy the beauty,