Yesterday was a day of demarcation. It will forever denote a time before and a time after.
It is a time where I came to a space of outward silence and stunning inward alertness. In an effort to train myself for a five day silent retreat I am attending later this year, I decided that yesterday would be the first time I intentionally remain silent for 24 hours.
As one who has lived her life exuberantly engaged in conversation, sharing my thoughts with everyone who might be within ear shot—this deliberate quiet seems daunting. So much so, that I dreamt about being unable to achieve it. Clearly, this was a worthwhile endeavor.
I notice that I felt scared. Very scared. Surprisingly and commonly afraid.
I notice that speaking is frequently an unconscious habit I have. I even talk to myself if no one else is around. It is as if talking is the energetic hamster wheel that keeps me endlessly busy, going nowhere.
As if speaking aloud sends the unruly disorder outward in my life and in cutting that off, there is nowhere for those thoughts to ricochet, no space outside myself to throw the shards of sentences, nowhere to shine the precise laser beam of questioning.
I notice that I seek endlessly out there. On this day, I am made aware of only in here.
I notice I am afraid to look at what I am always running from. Afraid to turn around, afraid to turn inward and to discover I’ve been running from nothing my entire life. Being with my breath allows my movement toward this fear.
To actually be with the silence within me, the space where I have actively avoided looking, I realize I have been terrified for the full duration of my existence. I am alarmed more at the emptiness than I am of the actual monster beneath my bed.
At least if I look and find a real monster—my chaos, my insecurity, my fears can remain legitimate. Without that, I am left with the reality that what I have feared has been an illusion all along. What will I hide behind without them?
Looking into this void and finding it is all made up, illusory, unreal—catapults me into a type of unknown state that naturally leaves me speechless. It is the epitome of unknowing.
The curtain has been pulled back.
I have glimpsed the monster I run from and I watched as she dissolved like morning mist touched by sunlight. From here, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no one to do the running and nothing to fear.
From here I can literally claim nothing.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman