The Space of Silence Takes Shape

We throw around a lot of words in meditation practice, one being silence, which is wordless. What exactly is silence? Is it merely absence of noise, or something deeper and richer? I consider myself lucky to have even two minutes of silence a day, when my mind isn’t chattering or commenting or especially judging itself for being so unsilent. The other day I had an experience of silence as a shape, not as “the space between the breaths” or that moment of almost sleep-like blank-mindedness. Rather, I was sitting drinking tea at my multi-use dining table, working on the computer, and I noticed that my thoughts had shifted to the present moment of “is-ness.” The tea was being tea in its cocoa brown cup. The computer’s whirring start up noises had stopped. My thoughts had suspended themselves. Between all the objects in the room were shapes of silence I could feel and touch. I felt exquisitely part of an extra-ordinary reality. I closed my eyes to savor the feeling. This was true silence, not just a moment in meditation, but in the essence of the very material objects in my range of vision.

I wondered if I should turn off the radio playing in a back room; or, if I should ambitiously go out and duplicate this experience in a noisy cafe. Part of me had a hard time hanging out in this silence for more than two minutes. Though the sublime silence filled the air and surrounded all the shapes in the room, my mind couldn’t sustain its presence. It craved sounds of distraction and human activity. I took a few good yogic breaths, but it was too late. The moment had passed. I did become more aware of silence and its shapes over the days to follow. Sometimes the “silent” experiment caught me by surprise, after a thunderstorm when the air was thick with heavenly, heavy silence, on the M79 crosstown bus, in a chilly air-conditioned library, before the start of a movie.

Sometimes having an “aha” experience may not last, but remembrance of an experience uplifts us and shapes our “in-look” and outlook for the better. Contemplate silence for yourself. There’s nothing much to do. It may help to close your eyes and open your ears. Listen deeply. Become absorbed in the “is-ness” of the world of objects and non-objects. See what takes shape.