The only constant sound I heard was my feet stumbling a bit on the many small rocks that covered the red dirt trail. Even though homes and the ocean were visible, they were far away, leaving a beautifully soft silence, occasionally broken by a bird trill, or something scurrying in the brush.
I was visiting Southern CA while a long, cold, winter was still going on back east, so as soon as I could, I headed for the hills to breathe the fresh air, smell the sage, and listen to the silence.
Have you noticed that silence is different in different places? In the middle of a very busy airport, I stood in silence, people ebbing and flowing around me. In the heart of a desert, the silence is so deep a small dropped pebble can be startling. During a snowstorm, silence feels as white and as soft as the snow.
Climbing the hill the first day was difficult. My emotions were not silent; they were hard things, with rough edges, bouncing back and forth inside of me. I didn’t know what to do with them. The noise that they made as they careened around and around in my head made walking and breathing difficult; I was huffing and puffing every few yards.
Then I noticed the silence, not inside myself, but in nature. Pausing, I listened, feeling how nature lives as silence, how nature welcomes us, willing to take our burdens and dissolve them away. I felt the sage bushes invite me to let them take away the human ping ponging of emotions within me, and as I said, “yes,” I could almost see the emotions moving away from me to the silent sage bushes, and disappear.
Continuing my walk, I was flooded with wonderful Angel Ideas of things to do. With emotions out of the way, I was free to feel inspired.
That night I dreamed of butterflies shaped like hearts, and in the morning, I felt like one emerging from its cocoon. Out of the noise of confusing emotions, the softness of silence was a relief.
One beautiful sunny day last summer, heading outside for a reading break, I caught a reflection of myself in the glass door, and saw what appeared to be a big black bug sitting on my shoulder. My hands were full – kindle, water, towel, hat – so all I could do was yell, “Get off! Yuck!” Finally, I managed to shake it off and it fell to the ground. Pausing to look, I saw that it was a black sunflower seed, probably having fallen on me when I fed the birds.
I continued outside while laughing about my immediate “freak out” reaction over what was nothing at all and found a beautiful soft yellow feather on my chair, symbolizing to me the hardness of reactive emotion, transformed to the softness of feeling.
This freaking out over what appeared on the outside as something to be upset about (although it is entirely debatable that even if it was a bug it deserved to be treated that way), was the same thing as the emotions that had upset me.
When I saw them for what they really were, my ego thinking that I was important, they became not only powerless, but nothing at all.
Silence is everywhere, even in a noisy world. Just as we are learning to look through what appears to be material and see that its essence is in reality spiritual, we can look through what appears to be noise, and discover the lovely silence that is the core of Life.
The rocks on the trail have been here for millenniums. Imagine what they have heard and seen. Yet we all have felt the soft silence that is within every stone. The caterpillar within its cocoon is surrounded by creative silence, and the butterfly is the result.
Seeking silence, desiring understanding, we don’t create more noise by trying to make everything silent. We don’t fight emotions by trying to make them go away. We simply watch, listen, and let go, and learn to walk softly into every moment of life.