Thomas Keating the Trappist monk and mystic said it best: 'The Creator's first language is silence'. He went on to add 'and everything else is a poor translation'. What is it about silence that paradoxically becomes a place of encounter, of transformation?
All the great contemplative traditions teach that it is in silence and only in silence, that all the distractions that we accumulate, our dreams and schemes, our hurts and hopes slip away. As we let go of our distractions we create space ... emotionally, spiritually, cognitively for that which is new, life giving, of the Spirit.
Several years ago I participated in a Zen meditation kayak trip on Tebenkoff Bay in Southeast Alaska. For ten days we paddled from island to island in a primal wilderness. Most of the time our small group paddled in silence. It was this silence, shared in community with other kayakers where the silence, heightened my awareness of what was going on within and around me.
In silence the colors of the bay seemed more vivid, the sound of a humpback whale spouting a 1/2 mile away seemed as close as my own breath. It was silence that empowered me to be more fully present to where I was and who I longed to become. Silence invited me to simply be and live mindfully in a most extraordinary place and in a most extraordinary way.
What about you? When was the last time you felt fully present to yourself, to your hopes and dreams, your needs and longings? When was the last time you were immersed in the beauty and complexity of the natural world? When was the last time a walk in the woods or floating on the water became a place of deep belonging and connection?
In our plugged in, overly scheduled, anxiety filled world, we often miss the gifts, the blessings that are simply waiting to be found. The antidote is silence. Silence creates a container inviting us to slow down, to be open to a source of wisdom, healing and hope that is greater than oneself.
Do you believe this to be true? Do you believe this to be possible?
Contemplative traditions from Zen, to a Quaker meeting, to a Trappist monastery, to a kayaker like me, provides an invitation to enter into silence so as to hear what Thomas Keating calls 'the voice and words of the Creator'.
The spiritual journey, however you choose to define it (or note define it), is about two things: Listening and noticing. In Isaiah 55:3 the prophet says: 'Listen and your soul will live'. An invitation to cultivate silence, so as to be able to hear and receive eternal gifts not of our own making.
Recentley 16 of us paddled and sometimes drifted in silence on the waters of Lake Cochichewick. There's something powerful and somewhat unexplainable about shared silence. While each person's experience is different, it is at the same time communal. A shared desire to quiet down and open up.
Summer is a wonderful time to listen and notice what is going on within and around you. To experience the eternal truth that there is more going on than meets the eye. There is beauty and wisdom, hope and healing that is ours simply waiting to be found. All this, for those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
May it be so.
With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop
Note: If you'd like to experience shared silence on the water, go to prayandpaddle.org and reserve your place as together we paddle.