A busy couple of days: not only a bit of furious blogging, but finishing up three separate writing projects and reviewing manuscripts for two critique groups.
This morning I attended the California Writer’s Club monthly breakfast and talked with a retired psychiatrist about what’s broken in our mental health care system (hint: a drug for all that ails you).
After breakfast I came home, and finding this week’s Time in the mailbox, read one of the lead articles, “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?”
After that it was time for final proofing and submission of entries to two of the writing contests I’ve mentioned here. The submissions are on their way, one electronically, one by snail mail. I’ll have results (or lack thereof) in June and November respectively.
Finally – finally, it was time to brew a cup of coffee in my new French Press (which I am just starting to master), kick back, and enjoy one of life’s greatest luxuries – SILENCE.
Strangely enough, I realize I can’t really say what silence is. It isn’t just lack of noise; the yard guys came with their leaf-blowers, and though I do not enjoy the sound, it didn’t throw me out of inner stillness today (though it sometimes does).
Silence is not just about lack of thoughts, though it does seem to be about experiencing them as impersonal events, like the weather.
Inner silence is not just about meditation, though paradoxically, I would not have found a way to get there if I had not been looking for it in meditative disciplines for years and years and years.
I didn’t learn to find silence on a meditation cushion, but at work, among the cubicles. I didn’t find it through some technique, but because I quit smoking and really missed the hourly time-out-from-everything I used to enjoy when I’d step outside every hour for a cigarette.
I missed those time-outs long after the nicotine was out of my system. I took to going outside every hour for ten minutes, thought at first I just did a lot of inner whining as I watched other people light up.
Then, at some point, it simply happened: I found my time-out mojo, my inner stillness. For me, it has to do with listening.
I think anyone can find it, it’s really easy. What happens when someone says, “Hey, listen, what’s that?”
Silence is what happens! Thoughts and distractions return soon enough, so you listen again. Distractions come, listen again.
Maybe sounds work best for me because they are not my dominant sense and I really have to pay attention. Thinking of attention I remember a Zen story that goes something like this:
A student goes to the master and says, “Sir, what is the key to enlightenment?”
The master says, “Pay attention.”
A few moments later the student says, “I am paying attention. What is the secret?”
The student begins to get flustered. “I am paying attention. Are you going to tell me or not.”
“Yes. Pay attention.”
You get it, and presumably the student got it eventually too – the doorway into one of life’s greatest luxuries.