Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Art of Silence

I suppose being raised in Quaker meeting predisposed me to learn to meditate.  Meeting for Worship is based on the notion that sitting in respectful group silence is a way of directly hearing from God.  Really there's a lot of faith involved. As I grew up, I always felt confused in church services, even run-of-the-mill Protestant ones.  What to do with the bulletin? How do you know you're turning to the right hymn? Then there was the agony of shaking hands with strangers, and all of this was somehow supposed to have to do with prayer.

In Catholic services, I was so lost I didn't even try.  Plus there was worship stuff non-Catholics either didn't need to do or weren't supposed to do, so I was safer as an observer.  

Along with First Day (Sunday) Meeting, I've been going to a "secular" Buddhist center a couple of times a week for the past year. We sit for 30-45 minutes, then there's teaching.  The kind of meditation they teach focuses simply on the breath. I love the fact that meditation is experimental, that it doesn't seek results.  This diminishes anxiety--the goal isn't to relax, but to notice.  Where is the tension in my body?  Does it hurt? Does it move? What happens if I relax my jaw?

There's nothing passive about it, but it's blessedly without a goal.  In my writing life, I'm so driven to get the work written, to be published.  I needed a counter to all that--ambition can dominate the mind and throw everything off.

What do you do to relax?  Does your mind ever race for more, striving for achievement, then tumbling downhill into worry? How do you deal with it?


Catherine Stine said...

Yes, I went to a Catholic service with some neighborhood buddies when I was about 11. Too much sitting, then standing, then sitting. My mind was spinning with confusion.
I love, love, love meditation. I usually add a section of creative visualization at the end of it (or the beginning). Helps for all kinds of angst.

HelenQP said...

...and general stuckness. Ican imagine what you visualize as being like your paintings!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, as always. :) Thanks for sharing. Being with Gina is what centres me and quietens the 'noise' of life for me. Love to meditate too. :)