At the end of last summer, I fell into observation. The vow of silence I’d been working to honor in short spurts of hours and days across the span of years, worked its way into my writing. Rather than the obvious accomplishment of sharing thoughts and solutions, solving problems, I turned my attention to being a solution, letting the energy communicate for me.
It all started with an observation years ago. “You talk too much,” an elder said. “When you fill the space with words, the quiet ones are crowded out. Listen better, share all that’s coming through that clear channel of yours with energy alone, eh? Sing or chant traditional songs if you can’t hold back. Speak only when directly asked for words. It will calm your heart.” And so I did. Or, at least I worked at it.
At first the experiment seemed doomed to failure. The visions would flow into me and I’d get so enchanted I’d bottle them up until I felt like I would explode. How could I deny the inner voice I’d been working to hear and honor. I couldn’t listen well to others, or even tear my attention from the inspiration to do anything with it all. It would burst out with intense force in a song or a prayer too big for the space and time it shattered into, out of place in my environment. I held the visions and dreams from ceremony until I was alone, and wasted them on the wrong audience. It was awkward and ineffectual… maddening.
I had to try something else, find another way to communicate. I started by releasing a little vision with each breath, still holding on and losing some, but wasting most of it. There was a little space for listening … a tiny sliver of time. Over days and months the sliver expanded to a comfortable opening. I added one sense after another to my hearing – touch, smell, taste, sight, second sight – until all of my senses paid attention to the beings around me, so meaning could seep into the space and swell to expand it even further. And I heard it. The answer sneaked in through an elder’s direction to a shy newcomer from another country in a sweat lodge ceremony. “Creator understands every language, even silence. When your turn comes to pray, do it in whatever way feels right. When the water meets the hot stone people, their voices will speak for you in steam if you have no words.”
Eureka! The universe opened up wide in a whole new way. The stones talk, the water talks, the earth talks, the trees talk, the bugs and air and animals and walls and all things talk. They just don’t speak my language. I listened with all of me for the first time since childhood and my identity melted away. The reverence and wonder held open the space it left for something more satisfying, for Faith. Attending with every sense to the stories around me, the visions and stories inside me found the rhythm of the moment. Little by little, with regular reminders, that rhythm released the stories and visions in harmony with the space I inhabited. The rhythm was a new language better than words.
I discovered the breath as a vehicle for the rhythm language. From then on, in ceremony, words came rarely and unconsciously when needed, as a natural extension of the heartbeat of the world and the music of life.
Last summer, the intense beauty of the Sun/Moon Dance revealed a deeper world, the life in all the things I thought of as inanimate, dead, senseless. Just because a thing has no brain or muscles or nerves, doesn’t mean it has no life, no senses or internal movement. Ceremony reminded me once again of all the life I’d been missing all around me, of all the voices I’d neglected when I talked or wrote, or assumed things couldn’t communicate. The reverent sensing began again. The writing stopped.
As you might guess, there was so much to catch up on, so much to change in my perspective, so much to integrate into my experience, that I’ve been enraptured these many months. “Being” replaced “doing” much of the time. In the silence, I was communicating without the words. Maybe I was heard and understood.
After nearly 3 seasons, I seem to have reached an equilibrium, where a budding reverence infuses everything I experience. Action comes often and responsively as needed, as a natural extension of the heartbeat of Love and the music of Life.
I still think and feel and plan and work, of course. It’s just that the ceremony never ends, so there’s nothing dividing the personal, spiritual and professional into separate lives. I don’t know what will happen or what I’ll do exactly. I know I’ll meet my commitments, keep my promises, care for my self-family-friends-community-work to the best of my ability, and live as honorably as I can. The details come clear only as they happen. It’s an amazing adventure. I still feel pretty tentative much of the time, but the quality of my experiences gives me more confidence every day. I was trained to take control and lead my life with a firm hand, so living in such a responsive, democratic way seems uncertain. The transition from leading a life to following a path is a little bumpy. Before I start the day and every so often within it, the butterflies in my stomach erupt into flight and the questions rush in.
The only way to calm them is to breathe and surrender. I answer the questions simply with an “I don’t know. We’ll see.” Then, the adventure begins again and the experience leaves no room for doubt.
After 10 years, a single year of silence is finally complete. The elder was right and I am grateful. Finding a way to communicate through the silence did calm my heart, and it gave me a richer voice. Silent communication brings a passionate harmony to life that I’ve learned to cherish. It is my first choice now. The words will come only when needed, if I can help it. When I’m frightened or sick or both, I can’t always help it. But that’s another story.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.