There are three kinds of silence. the first is physical, the silence of the outer world. This quiet world is a precondition for the second silence which is spiritual, the silence of the mind. Which mind, purged of distractions, prepares one for the third silence, the silence of mystical meditation. “When thought stops, words halt, and we move through light toward absolute silence.”

“Without silence, solitude, darkness, how can we come to any sense of our true size, our actual relationship with the rest of the world,” McKibben asks. Or we might add, with the “zone of silence in the middle of every art”? “…when someone is whispering something in your ear, there’s no way to think your own thoughts or feel your own responses.”

Stillness shrinks us to our own size, empowers us to acknowledge our pain, lends us the air into which this pain can, momentarily, evaporate.

~ Gail Sher, One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers (quoting Bill McKibben’s introduction to his annotated edition of Walden, and Tony and Willis Barnstone’s introduction to the Poems of Wang Wei)

Ah, stillness, solitude, the eternal staring out the window that we poets do. In the noise of the world, we get distracted, our minds start racing toward all the shiny things, and each of them could be an inspiration for writing, but all of them at once, the deluge? We kid ourselves when we think that this constant connectivity of the online community is where we need to be to survive as artists. Yes, there are great places to go and be inspired. Yes, there are other artists out there we want to support and promote when possible. We still need our space, our quiet closet where we hide from the onslaughts of the world, and we get to the places of quiet inside us that speak words of healing to our battered souls.

Out there is comparison and competition. We grow weary of wanting to be so big, so sought after that we no longer have time to sit and wish and wonder. Remember when we had hours to do nothing but stare up at the mountains, and out to the stream, listening to the sounds of birds in the trees, and tiny bubbles coming from still ponds where life grew underneath the water? Remember the longing, and the fulfillment all blended together in the hums and sighs of our own spirit, and nature all around us, and we couldn’t remember if we made that sound or it came to us from the birds?

In a world gone mad, where do we find our still, small voice? Where do you go to get quiet? I find myself lost within the lines of printed material, old-fashioned books of prose and poetry that fill my bookshelves. Time seems to stand still as the words wash over me, and bring me to a place of being small enough to swing from the branches of a particularly well-placed g in the text. Hanging here, and dangling my tiny feet amid the beauty of gorgeous words, I am my right size, tiny enough to adore, to linger over every vowel, to breathe deep the fragrance of the paper, and the ink, to live inside of the phrasing until it is a part of my heartbeat, my breathing in and my breathing out.

It is a shock to rejoin the world of big people crashing around to get small children ready for school. But throughout my day, I remember what it felt like to grace the edges of a g, and swing and sigh in smallness.

photo from here

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