Last week I had a Skype session with my spiritual director, and she began by asking me politely how I was. A torrent of reply spilled forth, and after a few minutes both of us became aware that we hadn’t lit the chalice yet. (For my non-Unitarian Universalist readers, the chalice is a UU thing, a way we use to mark sacred time.) As she lit the flame, she suggested we spend two or three minutes in silence.
In those minutes, I was able to notice what I had just done, notice the jumbled and swirling state of my own thoughts, and to take a few slow breaths. Everything slowed down, and it was like seeing clear patches in a lifting fog. I almost laughed out loud. The sense of relief and relaxation was most welcome, and the conversation that ensued was richer for my having been led to that still place.
I kept thinking about those moments of silence over the next few days, and how good it had felt. My spiritual director suggested we use silence more, because it seemed to be something I need. I thought, “Yes! THAT could be my spiritual practice, something I could do in a disciplined way. Silence. Just… silence.”
I know, I know. You mean, like, meditation?
Yes, sort of. Like meditation, but I don’t worry about needing the latest cushion or bench from Shambala, I don’t need to learn Sanskrit chants, I don’t need to fret about whether my position is Buddha-approved. I can just shut up, breathe, and notice what’s going on in my thoughts. In my body.
This, too, makes me want to laugh out loud. All these years I have not committed to a meditation practice because I didn’t feel like I was “doing it right,” and if I just call it “silence,” there I go. I know how to do it, my anxiety dissolves, and I have a spiritual practice that feels genuinely mine.
And now, a word from Monty Python and the man who couldn’t say “C”:
“You mean, spell ‘bolor’ with a ‘k’? ‘Kolor’?”
“What a silly bunt!”
I now invite YOU to spend a minute, or two, or five, in silence, and offer you a flame to watch as your mind quiets.