spirituality western europe

Noise in the Silence, Silence in the Noise

I want to write a little about noise. Not the obvious honking horns and airplanes taking off kind of noise, but rather the noise that only appears when everything is perfectly silent. I am writing this from Karma Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the French Alps where I am spending a week. Twice a day there is a “practique” or meditation gathering replete with Tibetan horns, drums and bells, and various chants, mostly translated chanted/sung in French. Once the actual meditation starts, the room becomes very quiet and, as with many meditations, all that remains is the noise in your head. At times it can experienced as thoughts or ideas, but in the midst of the wonderful mountain silence here, I am experiencing it as noise. I think that is probably a large reason for my wanting to come here – my mind has been feeling very “noisy” lately, without much capacity for simple stillness. Lately, I’ve been caught up in some fairly stressful and complex business-related things in Chicago and also getting involved in some family dynamics, so my mind has been working overtime. Prior to leaving California, I kept waiting to have a path unfold for me with these travels and coming to a monastery had a wonderful ring to it. My friend Shanti, whom I traveled with some in India, is here for the month of July, providing me with the invitation to come here. It’s nice to see her again and I’m appreciating the deepening of friendship bonds that come from repeated contact.

At times here, I am forced into quietness when I am at a table of people speaking French. While I am able to communicate in French with people, conversational french is definitely too fast for me. So when conversations start going, I try my best to bring my awareness back to myself and my experience. Just tonight, for the second time since I’ve been here, I went out in the evening with a group of people. It’s surprising to me how OK it is for me to be with a group and almost entirely ignored while everyone jokes around in French. I just sit there. I do get happier when people make an attempt to speak with me in English or even when they address me in French, but for the most part, I’m fine without the contact, without the connection.

I’m not sure why I’m enjoying quiet so much these days, but I am especially enjoying it when spent in the company of other people, whether they are silent or not. The silence seems to be more precious when others as silent as well, but my own silence is often sufficient. What it tells me is that I don’t need to fill the space so much anymore, that I can just be with what is. I find it so much easier to be with other people who are struggling some. My being silent gives people the space to be witnessed, to be heard, and it seems to be part of my being/providing what is needed, as I wrote about in a recent post..

At the practique this evening, I noticed how quiet I was internally when the drum and cymbals and horns started doing their “let’s drive away the demons” thing. Amidst a cacophonous noise was found an obvious silence.

Its strange, but in the noise, whether it be from drums and horns or unintelligible conversation, I seem to find silence, and in the silence there seems to arise noise.

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