On silence...

There are aspects of human experience difficult, if not impossible to explain or discuss with integrity. As we slow down and join the ranks of those who have contemplated the open space beyond or behind the movement of life, we touch the ineffable: emptiness, silence, stillness, or in Sanskrit sunyata. This is the potent energy that all things arise from and are made of, the energy behind all that is manifest. Pema Chodron describes sunyata as open space rather than emptiness; the moments while meditating or when fully immersed in life's texture when habitual thought, judgment, or analysis patterns are suspended. Those moments have a fresh or clarified quality; empty but also full of potential insight.

Sound and silence are tangible examples of the interplay between emptiness and form.  This passage from West with the Night, (an autobiography by Beryl Markham) touches on the potency of silence; the way in which silence holds the echo of form:

"There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys... This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing childor the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its' quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo."

On a kayaking expedition around the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, myself and two others undertook in 2008, we experienced this potency of silence in several places. The outer coast of Alaska is not frequently visited and the land holds the echo of the weather and animal existence found there. On a flat calm day in the bright sun of early morning we rounded Gore Point- a hook of land reaching into the Gulf of Alaska. When you turn on your VHF weather radio, the report for Gore Point is regularly nasty. Rounding the point that day, craning upwards at shear cliffs 1,300 ft. above, there was a feeling of unease, like tiptoeing past a sleeping dragon. Although the water was glassy and the scene was the most stunning I had witnessed, we didn't linger; the intensity of the conditions common to the point echoed within us.

When practicing asana or SATYA (a form of movement based on Feldenkrais and Somatics involving rocking and unwinding movements), I often take the time to pause after the pattern or pose just to feel the internal echoing of my nervous system, like a humming or pulsation. This step is the vital practice of non-doing; it provides an opportunity for inner listening and maintains the connection to open space or sunyata.