words that come from silence by Lindsay L. O’Connor
I want words that come from silence, like when the world began. Words born in noise have their place, to be sure, but there is so much noise from reacting without much thought, without checking in first with the body, heart, and mind, to see how the message might be refined in the furnace of our holy personhood.
May my words come from silence, after having a chance to breathe and air themselves out among sycamore trees, blue jays, and blue skies. We spend so much of life skimming the surface. Silence presents the possibility of plumbing the depths to see what’s underneath.
Go where you have been a thousand times before, but this time, try to notice what you’ve never seen. Our brains skip over repetition like the backgrounds of old cartoons, implying that what most deserves our attention is the roadrunner racing up ahead. But what about the glittering mysteries that have always been there, shimmering quietly, unseen?
I have walked my old suburban neighborhood for a decade and a half, but I only just began to see it a few years ago. I did not know there were dozens of varieties of trees within a half a square mile, nor was I familiar with the velvety underside of a waxy magnolia leaf.
Never until last week did I see the magic that is a yellow bellied woodpecker. How on earth could I have missed him, with his striking black and white bars and brilliant red-capped head? If only I had been paying attention sooner, I might know whether he was a local resident or a visitor from out of town. It’s so embarrassing to introduce yourself to a stranger and welcome them to your neighborhood, only to find that they have lived there longer than you.
Let this noticing in silence travel to your body and learn to watch yourself. So often, I look down and watch one of my hands kneading the other. I used to tell my body she wasn’t really anxious until she could present a strong, rational case. Now, I just watch her and respond, like a mother to her infant, learning every subtle cue that no one else would notice. Panic attacks used to catch me off guard, but perhaps it was because I dismissed my anxiety at levels one through eight and then was startled at levels nine and ten.
Now, when I think I am fine but look down and see one hand kneading the other, I notice, welcome the anxiety gently, and take a moment to be with and settle myself. Then, like a small miracle, my body relaxes and I become a settled presence to other anxious bodies in the room.
Being present to the ducks and doves and bumblebees, oak, cedar, pear, and pecan trees, is teaching me to be present to my body, is allowing me to be present to others.
I want words that come from silence because they are communal, for those who have learned to be with silence have learned to truly Be With God, self, and others.
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