The Excruciating Side of Silence

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Silence can feel so suffocating. So big. So overwhelming. So deafening. Almost unbearable. Sitting in stillness—immersed in silence—can even induce a sense of panic. It can make us feel like we want to crawl out of our skin. It can even feel just as excruciating as experiencing intense physical or emotional pain. Which is baffling.

It feels threatening, though there’s nothing to fear. 

It’s everywhere. It’s ever-present. It underlies everything. Yet we’re so unacquainted with it. So, totally un-attuned with the nature of it. 

We’re so entranced—entrapped—by all the seemingly relentless noise. Even our quiet moments are filled activity; our still moments infused with movement. 

We even, I think, create internal distractions to keep ourselves from truly experiencing it. 

Could those moments when our bodies start to ache during meditation really just be our mind’s attempt to remove us from the experience it? To draw our attention elsewhere? To steal whatever lessons or opportunities lie within it? I think so. Or, at least, I think it’s a possibility.

We don’t even understand how distanced we are from it, until we’re faced with the stark, undeniable presence of it. Until we put ourselves in a position where we’re forced to experience the fullness of it.

This morning as I drank my coffee and hot lemon water I sat in silence. I watched my urge to journal or write—and the uncomfortable energy that moved through me as I refused to yield to the impulse. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The thought of just sitting and sipping my coffee, without doing anything else—without even thinking—was such an unfamiliar, foreign concept for me. 

This particular experience wasn’t painful or frightening, but it wasn’t comfortable either. And, I was a little surprised by the resistance I felt to just sitting there. 

Silence is beautiful, ethereal, peaceful and soothing. But there’s also something about it that’s unsettling...even, at times, kind of terrifying.

And, I think, that’s something worth exploring.