Silence

I am constantly humbled by the kickass spiritual community here in Minneapolis. Today I had the privilege of seeing Swami Veda Bharati lead a 40-minute guided meditation and deliver a brief lecture on the power of silence. Swami Veda is taking a 5-year vow of silence next March, the mere mention of which made us audience members fidget and cough and think mournfully of our dear cell phones, tucked snugly away in the backpacks at our feet.

Swami Veda said that the stillness, the silence that we find when we retreat within ourselves, is the language of God, and if we listen carefully and quietly, we can understand the conversations that happen between flowers and butterflies.

“I am not being a poet,” he said. “This is just the reality of it.”

Swami Veda: ain’t no poet

As a writer, I appreciated that comment. My brain’s primary function, its joie de vivre, is to absorb the ephemeral, nebulous nature of reality and smash it with the clunky mallet of language, concretize the crap out of it, so it becomes solid–something worthy of a sentence! Something that could be easily narrated by Morgan Freeman in a movie! So when I hear about butterflies and flowers and the language of God, I’m like–cool, it’s a metaphor, or a simile, or some other comforting figure of speech that I can wrap my head around.

But that’s not exactly right. When Buddhists say the mind is like the sky, pure and open, and thoughts are like the hazy clouds that sometimes get in the way–it’s not a simile. It’s the way things are. Our minds are made up of the same stuff as the rest of the world, so it’s not that our minds are like the sky; they are the sky. And it’s not like silence is like the language of God; it just is.

This is something I like to chew on when I’m sitting on my deck, looking up at the sky and wiggling my toes and wondering What the Freaking Heck it All Means. Letting go of language, and of the tendency to rely on figures of speech to illuminate universal truths–well, I’m never going to do it (I’m writing about this after all, aren’t I), but the idea of pure silence can bring little glimpses of comfort.

Good luck to Swami Veda during his five quiet years. Because of him, I had Simon and Garfunkel in my head the entire bike ride home.

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