This morning, Monday, I watched as sixteen lines of school children, waited for their teachers to take them indoors on this windy day. They pulled their collars up and shoved their hands in pockets. Then, line by line, teachers descended the stairs, raised quiet signals, and beckoned the lines to come. Noises fell to whispers. Quiet extended its pale palm across the entire playground. Only a truck engine grinding up the hill just beyond the projects roared and grew fainter with distance.
Just now, I stepped into my office out of the noisy halls. I closed the door. Then, a hush poured in, made more complete by concrete walls of this old cinder-block school. A shift in consciousness came in that instant after sudden silence – and timid notions, tucked in my mind’s nooks, began to spill out. They had been waiting, so silence slipped away in the noise of my mind. In moments like these, I write these notes.
Top of mind is a day that begins with silence. And if not the whole school, I imagine my own twelve year old standing on the back stoop all by himself – beginning his day with an inward moment. Not silence as a formal or complex thing. Such complexities are their own form of noise. Instead, I think about starting a day on purpose – a revolutionary act that comes without a single cannon blast or shout.
Quiet arrives in stages just as it did this morning on the playground. Then, it deepens when you notice it and allow its spell to drop deeper inside. Past that, the journey into stillness comes through practice. You have to seek it and engage the practices that allow it to carry you in. By degrees, you find that even seeking quiet as a goal is its own kind of sound. Silence at this stage, becomes more about permission than a push.
When noise rises on the playground, it creates pressure. Pressure distorts. Distortion bends perception and when truth bends enough, it becomes an unintended lie. A day of complete peace, a disappearance of aggression, or even the forced arrival of any uninvited agenda- all of these kinds of noise create pressure. Even as I pause before dropping in to this day, I can hear a kind of predictive cacophony in what might be – shoving its way to the fore of my mind, announcing itself, and shoving its way in a manner unique to undesired noise. It will pull me away from where and how I want to be.
So the day begins.
No absolute silence exists except within a vacuum and very few of us ever experience the kind of quiet that can occur there. Later, may I find time to let the noise drain out through the soles of my feet, through into the concrete floors and then down into the earth itself. I seek to know how to allow myself to become quiet, quiet, quiet. . .What next surprise waits to open within me?