In meditation, I sit in silence not seeking for answers to what comes next in my writing, but the answers appear – unexpected and clear. And then I write. One word at a time, and the words take shape in an almost mystical process of creation. At fifteen I had an ulcer. To heal it, I threw away the drugs (except for Maalox) and meditated. In about a month, it had disappeared. How did I know to go inside to heal my strained nerves and mind? How did I understand that by calming my mind, my body could heal? Once the healing came, I lost the meditation practice until years later when I decided to leave business and write. An initial practice of t’ai chi connected movement with breath and helped me to slow down, become conscious and relax again.
The creative well is within the heart. It’s like a pure source, a pristine spring ever flowing. The quiet brings it bubbling to the surface. In American cities noise rattles our brains. In Charlotte’s new urban shopping “villages” programmed music shapes mood and experience in attempt to keep us entertained, to keep us from getting bored. The noise fragments us. We shut down, block it out and ignore. It’s necessary for sanity.
But silence is a necessity too. In a recent writers workshop I asked participants to spend lunchtime in silence. It meant a total of about an hour without speaking, reading or writing. Some sat outside under the trees, walked along the muted paths. When everyone returned, I invited them to write about their experience with the silence. The words they read later were profound, inspired, creative – from a stream of consciousness poem to deeply reverential prose about the power of silence to connect us to the world. I’d expected protests against the silence, but the group (except for two people) embraced it fully and fell in love with it. Their enthusiasm encourages me to recommend it to you. Try sitting silently once each day – same time and place. Schedule it as diligently as a workout at the gym. It’s actually more important. In the silence solutions come to seemingly impenetrable problems. Understanding dawns about why someone acted the way she did or what you should cut out of your diet. In the silence there is no pretension and no effort. Take it as an opportunity to get to know your Self – that deeper inner ocean that contains the universe and more.
If you dare, try scheduling a day in total silence – a day when you need not be forced to speak to anyone. Let the phone take messages. Shut down the Internet connection. Turn off the Blackberry. No cheating by writing notes. Just listen. Go without TV, without music droning in the background. Listen and pay attention. Something fantastic might happen. In the silence of the Alps, I’ve spent weeks on end barely speaking a word – a verbal fast. I kept the TV turned off and the reading at a minimum too. It made me friends with my Self, made me comfortable with my own companionship.
In the strength of silence, the subtleties arise. Become like a sweet jasmine flower that speaks in the silence of its fragrance.