Gone Quiet

by Jeanne Soulsby Oct 2014

Ssssh, be quiet. Make a choice to not speak or make eye contact with anyone for a day. Try it.
Pull yourself inward, look to the center of who you are and rest in that still point just behind your heart.

I recently spent a day at a silent meditation retreat in a home that sits at the base of a 13,000’ mountain; a serene setting where soft grasses bleed into the natural landscape of gamble oak and sage brush. Early fall snow lay across the twin peaks like a shawl and corduroy colors of rust and gold spot the hills.

The day began with breath work and quieting ourselves as we sank into a guided meditation. With eyes closed I opened and closed my mouth several times, stretching the jaw in an attempt to loosen the tight, clenched position I normally hold. I dropped my shoulders, rested my hands on my knees, softened my hips and sighed into the day.

We sat for thirty minutes in reflection then moved outside, walking in slow meditative steps for the next thirty minutes. We did this rotation for eight hours. The facilitator, a petite, soft spoken woman, would occasionally interrupt our solitude with a reading or music ranging from the sounds of India to country western, all with a message of silence. Concentrating on the sound she introduced into our muted world helped me focus on something other than the random thoughts that insisted their way into my mind. I have an active mind that races with ideas and thoughts spill continuously from my mouth. I talk a lot. I interrupt people and finish their sentences because they aren’t making their point quickly enough. I talk out loud when I’m alone. In my car, when I pull up to a stop light, my mouth moving in monologue, I bounce and sway so anyone looking my way will think I’m singing along to music. When my dog was still alive I felt justified talking out loud in order to include him. But now that he is gone, I just talk to the walls.

I believed my challenge in participating in this retreat would be my obsessive need to talk but, as it turned out, not talking was the easy part. My difficulty lay, first, in adjusting my breathing; inhaling and exhaling from the diaphragm and not from the chest as is my habit. I have been told that breathing from the chest represents a sense of fight or flight, a common theme throughout my life. So I concentrated deeply on the rise and fall of my belly button, pulling the air up through my lungs to be exhaled and released.

The second challenge was quieting that busy mind, slowing the gerbils that race frantically, their wheel spinning at Mach speed. As I walked meditatively, slowly placing one foot down, starting with the heel and rolling the foot onto the ground until it made strong contact with the earth, then the next foot, all while concentrating on “correct” breathing, the mind chatter began to subside. I gradually moved from the doing of walking and breathing and silencing to the ease of simply being.

By midmorning my emotions broke. We were being guided through an indoor walking meditation; my walking space limited to a ten foot area in the kitchen. The woman on the CD was oriental, her voice a whisper as she led us through thirty minutes of deepening our experience. Stepping with the right foot we were instructed to acknowledge silently that we were uneasy in our body. With the left foot we acknowledged that that was okay. With each step we dove deeper, encouraged to allow fear, anger and aloneness to surface and release. I muffled sobs and continued moving forward, gently, so gently placing heel to toe on the cool terra cotta tiles.

Fears emerged, remnants of age-old beliefs; the not-good-enoughness or, perhaps, millennia of judgments formed from the first apple picked in that Garden at the beginning of time. Another step – it’s okay. The right foot; a small internal voice cries to be heard, to be accepted. Left foot; I cradle my inner child, that sweet innocence so long ago abandoned – it’s okay. Right; relax into the easiness of your being. A deep breath, the left foot again; you are safe.

The voice on the CD shepherded us into embracing and loving the emotion, admitting silently that all is well. As the gong sounded for us to shift to a sitting meditation, a smile rested easily within me, knowing I had transcended old beliefs.

We broke for lunch, silently filling our plates with salad and a quinoa dish. I wandered into a small den, sat alone on the floor and brought my knees up. Cradling the plate, I closed my eyes and took slow bites. An heirloom tomato, a piece of artichoke heart, then a scoop of red quinoa with a tangy sauce and a piece of garden fresh lettuce. Flavors burst and textures teased. This was such a different experience then my normal eating habits; mindlessly chewing and swallowing while engaged in a book or the internet. Slowing the process, I moved into gratitude for the meal, the person who prepared it, the farmers who grew it and everything it took to get it to my mouth. And then there was chocolate.

The day progressed and, as I shifted into a state of neutrality, the challenges of the morning dissipated. The sitting meditation, with eyes closed, allowed me to be absolutely still, where my mind became a slate of dancing colors rather than words. The walking meditation, eyes open and most often focused on the ground in front of me, allowed me to become part of my surroundings. Each leaf or grass clump became significant, birdsong reverberated through me and the distant sounds of humanity became part of the mosaic. Glancing up, the powerful, quiet beauty of the mountain became a symbol for the truth of who I am.

I began the day with fears and doubts sitting just below the surface. By taking the opportunity to quiet the mind, slow the breath and move gently and easily for just a snippet of time, I have freed the emotion and I am at peace.

Silence fills me amidst the noise of my world; distant traffic, soft conversations from the family upstairs, bird chatter and the rush of breath as it flows from me. Silence is not an absence of sound but rather that place inside where I can reside, undisturbed, in the stillness that lies within my heart-space.



Simple Grace

As I breathe in and out I am filled with life as I walk down the path by the pond. Even the two birds soaring above me catch the wind of life and dance with their wings. The Presence of the Spirit is always in and around all things speaking to me, reminding me of who I am.

I see two mallards gliding with no effort across the pond, leaving soft ripples behind.  Yes, it is possible to glide through the day effortlessly, staying present and taking in the Life of the Spirit.

When I feel sadness, pain or anxious, I take a breath and consciously direct it to where I feel uncomfortable, and I spread open my arms and embrace the state I am in.  There is no need to process or figure things out, I am just being with what is happening as I embrace my self with the energy of love.

I continue to breathe in a circular way, breathing in love, breathing out gratitude, letting go..  Then my heart begins to open and I expand into the greatness of experiencing life.  I smile and continue walking noticing that there is no trace of sadness or anxiousness, and the pain in my walking is gone.

This is sweet, simple Grace.


An Open Vessel

In the beautiful Telluride mountains on a cool breezy day, I was sitting in silence in a wonderful meadow.  Enjoying the smell of the clean crisp air and the cool grass, I was feeling so joyous and filled with love and peace.  How blessed I felt.  As I savored the moments of this pristine gift, tears of joy began to flow down my cheeks.  I asked my inner Beloved, what is this? My attention went immediately to a village in Iraq, a village occupied by mostly women and children.  I was directed from within to send the peace and love I was so profoundly feeling to the village. When the feeling poured out from my heart I found my self oddly satisfied.  I was grateful for this Divine experience.  The next day I heard on the radio the news that the Taliban had gone into a village of women and children and slaughtered them. I know now that the village was filled with Divine Love and comfort during their transition.  I hoped that they saw the face of God in their anguish.

Grace given.