As I started to contemplate how I could weave this topic into a short story, I uncovered not only lyrics to songs (Sounds of Silence, etc.) but that “going into the silence” is exactly what I’m experiencing in my life right now, on several levels. And that silence is probably one of the most difficult and yet most profound spiritual tools available to us.
I used to be the kind of person who worked a full time job, managed a volunteer program for a non-profit arts group AND simultaneously worked (volunteered) to promote/enlarge/expand a spiritual group that I had been studying with for quite some time. On top of that, I was riding (horses) very religiously. I rarely had time for myself, except to sleep.
But now, I’ve chosen to work toward the realization of dream (a successful coaching and energy healing practice as well as writing a graphic novel) which requires a lot of time in solitude, in contemplation, in learning, and in listening. As I write my graphic novel, I spend even more time in solitude, envisioning what obstacles my characters must over come and how they themselves must transform. I’m spending a great deal of time alone … and it feels downright uncomfortable.
I realize that my preoccupation with activities, while fruitful, were also preventing me from being present with myself. I never gave myself the opportunity to hear me, to see me, which then, of course, meant that I was not creating space for the divine to be present.
But even with this awareness, I’m still experiencing the discomfort, and sometimes am terrified by silence’s vast emptiness.
Why am I so afraid?
Silence strips away the distractions of life which anesthetize us from our feelings … that our lives are empty, that we perhaps are “nothing”, that our lives amount to nothing. It is this nothingness that I face in my seclusion, a feeling so abhorrent that I feel hopeless, insecure, despairing … everything in me wants to run to my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe (and prove to the world) that I am worth something.
An article written by Ministry Coach W. David Phillips, on Solitude as a Spiritual Practice, sums up exactly how I feel when I am in seclusion. “As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive – or poor, ugly and in need of immediate consolation. Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory.”
I’m comforted by the knowledge that all human beings are built with this void in our souls that we fill with people, noise, activities, possessions. Because it means that the “struggle” is meant to be. That it is part of the human process. That SILENCE is the gatekeeper to WISDOM and the path to wisdom is not meant to be easy. That is the very nature of our humanness. Our human condition.
I take comfort in the knowledge that to go into the silence is to find the place where the old self dies and the new self is reborn and re-emerges. To go into the silence is to greet oneself – naked and vulnerable and probably even broken – to begin the process of renewal. I realize that this process is needed if we are to develop a true friendship with ourselves, and hence the divine.
I understand the challenge is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my place of retreat, until all of my demons grow tired of their roaring and lose their voice.
But how, without losing my mind?