Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Sacred Silence

And so it goes.... My blog silence lasted for nine days and then I read a book, shared a passage from it with my TCC continuing students, and realized that my blog was the ideal storage container for a few excerpts from said book.

A quick update: I've practiced T'ai Chi Chih daily since ceasing my daily blog journal and have felt as free as a kite. Now I do my TCC moving meditation and then continue on with my life post-practice minus any obligation to write about that practice. (As was likely obvious to my readers, some days I just didn't have anything significant to say.) Now, since I stopped writing my daily TCC blog, I have space in my life to write about other experiences. Beautiful!

Then I read Terry Tempest Williams' book, When Women Were Birds. Fascinating. Williams was inspired to write this book following the death of her mother who gave Williams three shelves of her personal journals to be read after her death. There was only one minor problem . . . every single journal was blank. No words. No pictures. No scraps of memory, history, feelings, thoughts, or experience. That sent Williams on a journey of discovery: What was her mother trying to say? What was her silence meant to reveal?

In one segment of her book Williams writes specifically about silence and begins with a quote by psychologist C.G. Jung: "Fear seeks noisy company and pandemonium to scare away the demons." This, I believe, is one of the reasons why the people who join--and stick with--T'ai Chi Chih Joy Thru Movement classes are an unusual bunch of adult learners. They are willing to enter a space of silence in the company of others.

Williams writes (p. 57):
I am afraid of silence. Silence creates a pathway to peace through pain, the pain of a distracted and frantic mind before it becomes still.... I fear silence because it leads me to myself, a self I may not wish to confront. It asks that I listen. And in listening, I am taken to an unknown place. Silence leaves me alone in a place of feeling. It is not necessarily a place of comfort.
Williams goes on to describe the work of two artists: composer John Cage and artist Robert Rauschenberg. Cage's piece 4'33", initially performed in 1952, involved a pianist walking onto the stage, closing the lid over the piano keys, and clicking a stopwatch he held in his hand. He stood twice to open and close the piano lid between movements and then stood to receive his applause.

As you might imagine, audience members were perplexed and annoyed by Cage's theatrical, creative work and when the third movement began many either talked or walked out of the performance. Probably few noticed what sounds emerged in the midst of Cage's staged silence.

Williams explains (p. 58):
Silence introduced in a society that worships noise is like the moon exposing the night. Behind darkness is our fear. Within silence our voice dwells. What is required from both is that we be still. We focus. We listen. We see and we hear. The unexpected emerges....
I'm in awe of those people who choose to explore meditation. And I am blessed in each T'ai Chi Chih class session when my students willingly enter into the silence--and the potent energy it carries with it--as we notice our bodies and minds and allow them to soften and relax thus helping to deepen the silence within our practice circle. Thanks to all of you who have joined me in the sacred silence of TCC practice. It is a gift . . . and a blessing.

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