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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Silence: Three (Very Short) Stories

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Humming

Just relax and hum...any note, any set of notes. Allow the slight buzzing sensation from the hum to expand through your face and neck and chest, a little like the purring of a cat or the drone of a bumblebee.

You can hum a tune, but it might be easier to relax into the hum if you are not focusing on producing a song. Hum some and rest. Hum a little more and rest some more. If you are sitting still or lying down, you may be able to feel the physical vibrations of the hum move through your whole body. I find this zapchen tool to be very portable, and very calming.

Silence: Three (Very Short) Stories

I. At the close of a mindfulness session, I take a pair of Tibetan hand chimes, tap them together and listen to the clear bell-like tone. As it grows fainter and fainter I put the chimes right up at my ear; the tone pulsates as it fades. Once the sound is totally gone, I wait a few seconds, then ring them again, this time a little more quietly, again listening until all sound is gone. I tap them together one last time, even more gently, and listen as the sound once again diminishes, finally fading away. If I am present--and lucky--I experience this fading not as the absence of sound, which is empty, but as the presence of Silence, full and alive in its simplicity.

II. Yesterday Lawrence and I went for a walk on a farm turned nature reserve, which backs up to an abandoned, mostly overgrown golf course, for a total of about 500 acres. On one of the steeper hills we stopped to take a swig of water. On the backside of that hill the incessant background roar of traffic and construction was buffered out by all those acres of fields and woods, so we ended up drinking in the silence as well. Once we stopped talking we had a chance to listen to the tiny sounds of nature--the light rustle of leaves in the wind, a faint bird call, an acorn dropping to the ground. A blessed cessation of human noise.

III. My Uncle Al served in the Army in World War II, so when he died in his late 70s he had a military funeral. I am not a military kind of person--not at all--but nearly twenty years later, part of that service is etched in my memory as one of the most powerful memorial experiences of my life. It starts with an honor guard coming to the front of the church sanctuary. The leader does a roll call, saying the rank and last name of three of the honor guard members, one at a time. They each respond quickly, in turn, with a vigorous "Here!" Then the leader calls my uncle by his rank and last name: "Staff Sergeant Scribner." There is total silence. He is called again, with both first and last names this time: "Staff Sergeant Albert Scribner." Still no response. It is so poignant. Finally the leader calls his rank and full name, slowly, each word uttered separately: "Staff Sergeant Albert Willis Scribner."

A hush fills the entire church. There is no answer. Our uncle, father, grandfather, husband, friend is so clearly absent. In one way it is a profoundly empty silence. And yet because the silence honors our loss by witnessing to the truth of his absence, it is powerful. Off in the distance, another soldier begins to play "Taps" on a bugle--24 haunting notes in honor of the life--and now the absence--of this man that all of us have cherished. As the song ends, the bugle notes fade into silence.

Silence calls to us. It can touch...move...inspire. For me it is a deep and essential aspect of the God of my understanding, encompassing (among other things) compassionate listening.

It is a gift--not to be taken lightly in this world of endless noise.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Cat, Yerlin Matu, unSplash

Tibetan chimes, Petr Sidorov, unSplash

Path through the woods, Andrew Neel, unSplash

Bugler, Associated Press


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