There have been times in my life where I could not bear silence, where I swear I heard it ringing relentlessly in my ears, compounding my sense of isolation, making me feel as though the whole world was happily in community while I sat alone, panicking, unable to quiet my monkey mind, my pounding heart. My first postgraduate semester in Oxford, perched above the noisy intersection of Longwall and High in a sterile bedsit, was too much of this.
Other times I have been able to tune in to silence, feeling both drawn out into the vastness of landscape while simultaneously breathing deep into my essential self (a frigid, starlit winter night at home in South Dakota feels this way), or caught up in the vastness and variety, yet essential commonality, of human experience. I have felt this most readily in New York City, or Chicago, while walking or taking a train to work, feeling part of the flow of a local population commuting to the work that sustains us and those we love.
I am trying to cultivate a heightened, meditative mindfulness in order to access this experience more deeply and more often, more independently of circumstances, yet it is not something that comes easily or naturally to me.
But oh, in this week of so much hatred and divisiveness, pain and violence in our human family, I am griefstricken, wanting both to scream at the top of my lungs and to go silent, deep within, at what we have all borne witness to, virtually or all too close. It takes my breath away that anyone could experience other fellow travelers on this planet as so “other” as to wish to eradicate them, as individuals or groups, from this world we all belong to. There are no words, and yet we struggle to bring them forth.
Mary Peckham, for The Poplar Grove Muse