Sitting in Silence

Silence is something we often explore in meditation and for spiritual purposes, as in the practice of silent retreat. Without vocalised interactions, we turn inwards, in theory, listening to the quiet inner voice, finding peace and so forth. While I’ve done plenty of sitting in silent meditation, I’ve never entered extended periods of silence for spiritual purposes.

I’ve recently had tonsillitis, and between the sore throat and the swollen tissues, talking has been really uncomfortable. I’ve been obliged to become mostly silent, and it’s been an interesting experience. 

I am of course still communicating, because not communicating would be unbearable to me. I’m relying a lot more on facial expressions, hand gestures, body language – there is a lot I can get done this way. I’m typing and using devices when I need to share things that I can’t gesture. It turns out that if I have my written ‘voice’ I don’t feel too troubled by the loss of my spoken voice. As being ill has kept me at home, it hasn’t caused any great technical problems to have to type rather than speak.

It raises some interesting thoughts for me around the role of communication in life, and in our spiritual lives. Increasingly I see the bard path as the heart of what I do, and that absolutely revolves around communicating. It can tend to prioritise the ability to make sounds with your face, but I feel very strongly that no one should be excluded on the basis of how they are able to communicate. 

For me, spirituality is a conversation. The silence is for listening, but extended silence isn’t a conversation, and the exchange matters. What I do tends to be fairly people-centric because I communicate best with people, but I listen a lot more widely. 

I can learn in silence, but I don’t find my own  spiritual self there. I find more benefit in sharing, in vocalising, in communicating. I’m more my spiritual self when I make sound, or make words, than I am when I turn inwards for extended periods.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Sitting in Silence

  • TPWard

    The silence is for listening. I have come to recognize that it can take a lot more time to listen to spirit than I can possibly imagine. It’s like trying to warm a 10-pound stone by use of breath alone: possible, yes, but don’t be in a hurry.

  • angharadlois

    I hope your tonsils heal well!
    Your post has prompted a few reflections in me. Firstly, that a lot of my communication is non-verbal, and my definition of ‘people’ is very wide. But even the most extended periods of listening need to be grounded in some kind of response: a gesture, a phrase, even an attitude. Perhaps at its deepest level this is what conversation is: a transformative and dynamic interaction between two or more intelligences; words optional (but preferable, especially for bards!).
    And secondly, you’ve reminded me that I keep meaning to learn BSL or some other kind of sign language. As well as aiming to be more accessible and communicate with more people, it has always struck me as a beautifully expressive language.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m mending. Thank you for adding all of this. I had a go at BSL a few years back having always wanted to do it, but, learning online I couldn’t work out what was integral to signs and what was personal to the speaker which was tricky. I also learned that the mouth movement element is a nightmare for me and that whatever I normally do with my mouth when I’m talking is so out of kilter with what’s called for that it was a problem.

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