… and walking, because that is where I find my silence.
Thanks to the many-a-mentioned MOOC and the Monks of New Skete, I’ve learned some things about myself, and how to finally find some measure of stillness in my life. I got to thinking about that quite a bit a while ago, whilst evaluating my progress, and there was way too much, even for my voluptuously verbose style, to cram into the designated bullet point on silence.
Free of the confines of my tiny bullets, I’d like to expand on my thoughts a little bit.
I have said that walking is where I find my silence, and I have said that the key is purposefulness. This became painfully apparent to me as I wrote that MOOC wrap-up, as I threw the practice under the microscope. What I saw was that I was writing of a distant memory, not the memory that I would like to be retrieving from only a few hours ago. Somewhere in the hubbub of summer, my walks took on an air of chore-y-ness. I fell from that lofty state of setting out with my own spiritual betterment in mind, to setting out to git’r’dun. My short walks became something to check off of my list in the morning, and lost all but the most carnal benefits.
I do need to walk for the reasons of the flesh; this is true. My body is much happier if I get it movin’ on down the driveway every morning, arms a-swingin’. But compared to the more ethereal potential, the physical benefits reaped are but a drop in the bucket.
What I had experienced, in the far-too-distant past, and what I am striving to experience again, is the full ball o’ wax, the whole enchilada. To walk with stillness in mind, to regain that centering of my day, is an act of silencing the clutter of my mind.
The clutter of my house, while painfully obvious to outsiders, becomes a sort of background noise to me. Just part of my environment that I no longer notice, much less appreciate. It no longer has a purpose, but still it fills up valuable space in my house. So too with the spiritual clutter, clogging my heart. The mental mess, slowing my brain. The auditory and visual clutter, numbing me to my surroundings.
Clutter is clutter specifically because of its lack of purpose and its blending into the background. Whether it stops up my hallway or my senses makes little difference; it is still clutter. How I deal with each species of clutter-monster might vary, but it always starts with opening my eyes.
In my home, I need to see the clutter. This requires opening my eyes. I need to look at everything in my life with a critical eye. Does it serve a purpose, or is it just part of the static?
In my life, I need that same critical eye. Why do I do what I do? How do I spend my time? What am I filling my mind with? What am I listening to, often numbly? Watching? Of course, there is media up the wazoo to consider, but there is also the hum of the 21st century, a difficult buzz to break through. The electronics and appliances in my life lend a mechanical bent that I can’t shake within my four walls. My horizons are littered with the stains of society. How do I protect what I take in through my senses?
Clutter of the mind and spirit are particularly nefarious. This is where I need to use the inner eyes to see. How do the events and inputs in my life affect my most essential processes? Here is where I need to do the most deep cleaning, rooting out the attitudes that have crept in through back doors and leaky windows. Before I can root them out, however, I need to acknowledge their presence. I need to analyze myself and look for those habits and programs I run that sabotage everything that is good and true in my life.
Newsflash: This analysis and reflection requires some deep silence. Real silence, intense insistence on shutting out the racket and allowing the beauty of the real world in to work. There is wisdom in birdsong, healing in the rustling of the grasses. God is in the details, as always.
Split the wood and I am there; lift a rock and you will find me.
Seeing those details is something that doesn’t just happen. We need to open our eyes wide and look.
This is why I need to walk. I need to get outside of my house, out of my routine, into my world, into my heart. For me, the surest way to get there is a short walk down the driveway, with a mission of silence in mind. 2016 (a-hem… early 2016) is the perfect time to tackle that mission.
Peace and many strides of silence,