Blog by Alan Seale, October 26th, 2020, Deep Listening
During the last week, I’ve noticed several admonitions in public media to “take care of your mental health” as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. I would add emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Readers of this newsletter tend to be pretty self-aware. Yet these days, it is nearly impossible to escape the undercurrent of tension, uncertainty, and instability of our times. I find myself seeking out quiet, solitude, and stillness in between the Zoom coaching calls and classes. More and more, I am leaning into the silence.
Cynthia Bourgeault, modern-day mystic and Episcopal priest, writes:
Silence is not absence, but presence.
It is a “something,” not a nothing.
It has substantiality, heft, force.
You can lean into it, and it leans back.
It meets you; it holds you up.
Silence is not absence, but presence. It is a “something,” not a nothing. Such a beautiful articulation of what I feel and know, yet I hadn’t found such clear words.
In those moments when I am able to tap into pure, deep silence, I feel like I am floating in a sea of clarity, safety, and oneness with All That Is. It’s not just quiet—it’s much more than that. It rarely happens without focus and intention. It’s not a light thing. Rather, to come back to Cynthia Bourgeault’s words, this kind of silence has substantiality, heft, force. You can lean into it, and it leans back. It meets you; it holds you up.
In my experience, this substantial silence feels solid yet embracing, strong yet tender. It’s a force, yet it caresses me gently. Not only can I lean into it; I want to lean in. I long to. And it leans back.
It’s that leaning back that holds me up. The silence meets me where I am. It leans back into my weariness and my discomfort. It leans back into my reluctance to accept what is in front of me, around me, within me. And it gives me strength. In that moment, I know deep in my cells that I’m going to be alright. That we are going to be alright.
Leaning into the silence, I find the strength to put words to my fears, my doubts, my loves, my hurts. I don’t even need to say those words out loud. Something happens inside—an alchemy, a healing—just by putting words to feelings.
In the documentary film Alan Magee: art is not a solace, another Episcopal priest, Holly Lyman Antolini, offers:
This is a thing about human beings.
We can bear things if we can express them.
—Holly Lyman Antolini
Leaning into the silence, we can find the courage to express, perhaps for the first time, what is in our hearts, what is weighing heavily on our souls. I’m learning that when I allow myself to lean into the silence—and that is a conscious choice; it doesn’t happen automatically—it is in the silence that I am able to hear my heart giving words to what is longing to be expressed. It is in the silence that my soul can talk to me in words that only I can hear. Words out loud fail to express the profound nature of that silent communication. Yet the silent inner words make it more possible to bear my outer circumstance.
I come back to words of Cynthia Bourgeault:
Wisdom isn’t knowing more,
it’s knowing with more of you.
For most of us, it’s difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find that “more of you” in the noise and busy-ness of daily life. It takes a substantial, hefty, forceful silence to break through our awareness and create enough space for us to hear our own wisdom.
In these uncertain times, practice tapping into the silence deep within the heart of your being. It may take some time. It’s OK. Yet when you get to that silence, lean into it. And let it lean back. Let that profound silence rise up to meet you. It will hold you up, whatever comes your way.
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