In explanation of my post today, here’s a quote from the Daily Dharma:
Improving Upon Silence
The most important step in developing skillful speech is to think before speaking (or writing). This is called mindfulness of speech. Few things can improve the nature of our relationships as much as the development of skillful speech. Silence offers us, and those around us, the spaciousness we need to speak more skillfully. When we speak with greater skill, our true self—our compassionate, loving self—emerges with gentle ease. So before you speak, stop, breathe, and consider if what you are about to say will improve upon the silence.
- Allan Lokos, from “Skillful Speech,” Tricycle, Winter 2008
(Read the complete article here).
And the photo of Fatty is because this morning by gently patted my hand with his paw when I’d pawsed (ha ha) from stroking him to type this post. He knows how to make good use of silence.
Happy weekends x
This week I finished reading Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence.
When I first sat down to read it, I kept finding myself annoyed by whatever music was playing in the background. I decided to read it in silence, or rather the particular ‘silence’ of this rural-cottage-by-a-busy-road.
In it Maitland sets off on a personal exploration of silence – both by immersing herself in various forms of silence, and by reading of other’s experiences of silence down the ages.
In the latter part of the book she proposes two types of silence – a zen-like ‘dissolving the boundaries of the ego’ silence, and the almost-opposite – a Romantic ‘shoring up the ego’ in order to find our authentic voice. The first enables us to start letting go of our personalities, and the second leads us towards firming them up.
I found Maitland’s journey fascinating, and it also led me to ask some questions of my own. How ‘noisy’ is my life, with music, email, phone calls, blogging? How does this serve me and how does it cushion me, and from what? For a few minutes I was seriously considering getting rid of the lot – my blogs, my Facebook account, all that distraction. I decided not to, for now. I enjoy it, and on balance it feels ‘good for me’ despite the disadvantages.
But Maitland’s yearning for silence does resonate with me. It conjures the silences with my counselling clients, which can be so varied – from intense discomfort to an intimate ‘communing’ with the other person which is beautiful beyond words. It makes me think of the ‘work’ of sitting zazen, by myself or in a room of others. Or simply watching the goldfinches. Letting everything settle, slowly. Without the need for any of that noisy talk.