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. But I did try, though less successfully, to duplicate the awareness of silence and its shapes throughout the days to follow. The experience was grounding itself, however subtly. It caught me by surprise, after a thunderstorm when the air was thick with heavenly and heavy silence, on the M79 crosstown bus        


About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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2 Responses to The Space of Silence Takes Shape

  1. Lia says:

    Sheila – I have given up on silence altogether, given where I live and what is going on here. Instead, I embrace the practice of allowing myself to be engulfed by ruach which, in the Kabbalastic sense, simply means all that is happening in the airspace that surrounds you. I actually managed to sleep through a huge street construction project they were doing in the street right in front of my apartment: so I guess the Kabbalah is not chopped meat after all. Lia

  2. sheilaklewis says:

    Yes, there is no physical silence in this city. I am lucky to have quiet spaces in my apt. And silence can be achieved in some moments, or just the space to pause. Yes, for all that is happening. The Kabbalists refer to the state of Ayin, the Yogis have a lot of terms…

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