There is a noisy restlessness to our culture. We experience a constant push to create, perform, and make things happen. Even our recreation times need to be filled with activity and we constantly seek entertainment to keep a sense of emptiness at bay. We fill our lives with noise and with things to be excited about. In contrast, we often fear silence and doing nothing.
At the UVic Interfaith Chapel, students, staff and faculty gather a number of times each week in silence for meditation. It is not unusual to see 40 students and staff sitting in a large circle with their eyes closed for a 20-minute silent meditation. They take time out from their studies and work and deliberately enter into intentional silence. Through an inner gesture of letting go, releasing their attention on thoughts, feelings and sensations, they enter into a deep realm of silent awareness, touching the ground of being, beyond the incessant doing.
In most all traditions of spiritual development there is the understanding that within each of us there is a silence – a silence as vast as everything that exists. The Psalmist writes: Be still and know that I am God.” We are scared of this stillness… and it is our deepest longing. We experience that silence from time to time. We discover that everything that exists is embedded in silence. That silence is the source of all that exists. That it is our deepest nature, our home, and the peace that passes all understanding.
Before the Big Bang, there was silence. The dark matter and energy out of which everything that exists arises, is the silence of the universe. Between each of our words, there is silence. At the turning of our breath, between inhalation and exhalation, there is a point of silence. Before our first cry there is silence, after our last breath has formed our last word, there is silence. Silence is not to be feared, it simply is. Everything is embedded in silence.
Max Picard expressed it this way: ”Silence reveals itself in a thousand inexpressible forms: in the quiet of dawn, in the noiseless aspiration of trees towards the sky, in the stealthy descent of night, in the silent changing of the seasons, in the falling moonlight, trickling down into the night like a rain of silence, but above all in the silence of the inward soul.”
Meditation is the spiritual practice that takes silence seriously and draws us into the silence of the inward soul. Through Meditation we create the conditions to foster not just an outer silence, but also to quiet the clatter and noise within.
Another meditation practice offered at UVic – to calm the clatter of mind and honor the need for silence – is the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is an embodied meditation that helps the mind open to stillness, especially during the stressful times of end-of-term exams and assignments. For three weeks a canvas labyrinth is placed on the floor of the Interfaith Chapel.
This year’s events and dates are:
Labyrinth at the UVic Interfaith Chapel. Mondays to Thursdays, March 25 – Apr 11, 9am – 6pm.
Labyrinth Workshop, Interfaith Chapel: Monday, March 25, 6:30 – 8:30pm Learn about the history of the labyrinth and how to use it for prayer and meditation. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Labyrinth by Candlelight: Thursdays Mar 28, Apr 4, Apr 11, 7:00 – 9:00pm. Drop by and experience the magic and the deep stillness of the labyrinth by candlelight.
Everyone is welcome!
Originally appeared in the Times Colonist on March 23, 2013.