Finding the silence

noise and silenceWhen I first learned meditation it was in a community centre. We sat in the gym and tried to filter out the loud noises from the kitchen on the other side of the wall. People often laughed at the perceived impossibility, but it was actually a great way to learn focus and means now that the distraction of garbage trucks outside the yoga studio rarely bothers me (until the teacher draws attention to it!).

My next meditation teacher was so awesome in his concentration and sangfroid that he once popped out of the room (a church hall this time) to accost a burglar in the entrance hall and come back into the room to continue guiding us — and all this without most of us noticing!

I can only aspire…

Right now our house is overcrowded. We have family staying so space and quiet are at a premium. Hubby and I are sleeping on a pull-out in the spare room and the material things I need day to day are in two boxes in the corner of the room: one for yoga clothes and books, the other for work clothes. I’ll leave you to guess which is the larger box! Amidst this disruption I’m working creatively to make space for my practice; for my daily meditation as well as for my āsana, for my teaching practice homework, and for my study.

I cannot expect perfect conditions so I’m using what I have as part of the experience, part of the acceptance of imperfection and an embracing of the uncontrollable chaos of real life. For meditation you don’t have to be on a cushion for half an hour. Yes, this is what I prefer, but that’s just an attachment, right? It’s not inherent in the practice, it’s about my perceptions of the practice. So I’m coming back to the beginnings, recalling the gentle words of my first teacher, as she guided us to find our own inner silence no matter what the world was doing around us.

om And actually I realise (all over again!) that the background noise can provide a wonderful counterpoint, not disrupting the inner silence but somehow enhancing it by the contrast. It’s like the silence after OM, but happening simultaneously rather than sequentially.

I sometimes think we only appreciate what we have in the moment when we have lost it. It’s the absence of something that gives it value. But perhaps by balancing the opposite (in this case noise and silence) at the same time, I could hold the space for appreciating both — the stillness and silence that resides (or hides!) within me as well as the uncontrollable confusion and vital energy of life going on around me.

office matAnd if all else fails, I can seek refuge in the bathroom: don’t underestimate the rich experience of a truly mindful shower or teeth-cleaning! Or even a form of silent ‘sitting practice'(!?): I did once read somewhere about how to practice mindfulness when evacuating one’s bowels. Somehow that’s proved a lot less popular than mindful eating or those colouring books!!

And āsana practice? Well, there is literally no space at home to roll out my mat. The weather currently makes the garden unappealingly cool, so it’s more of a functional stretch in the office, hoping that no-one comes in unexpectedly! And yes, that is a Sanskrit dictionary doing duty as a block to sit on! 🙂

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