Finding quietness to be able to hear

Gordon Hempton takes in the world through the ‘solar-powered jukebox’ that is Earth. He says that silence is an endangered species. He defines real quiet as presence – not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. For Gordon, ‘quiet is the think tank of the soul’.

In learning how to read my heart as a matter of daily practice, I’m also learning how to be quiet and still with myself, to find not an absence of sound, but this absence of noise. Ram Dass said that the quieter you become, the more you can hear. Because it’s only when we are quiet and still that we can hear, and we can really listen to, what is being said.

You might have heard of the famous poem, The Invitation. It’s a beautiful poem that I treasured many years ago, lost for many years in between, with it coming back to me full circle. As the name suggests, The Invitation invites us to explore our inner selves:

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

It does not interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

To be quiet and still is to give ourselves permission to hear our own silences, to connect with them, to sit with them and to get to know them. W.B Yeats said that it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield. I’m no solider, but if we can be strong enough to examine our inner selves, I hope that it can make us better listeners to hear what is being said in the silences of others.

To be quiet and still is to open up to where we are. To tend to our own inner lives is not selfish – it is an essential aspect of healing.