21 Jul

A Square Inch of Silence

Eight years ago, when I first began to sit in circle with the women in the shelter, I talked a fair amount. I wanted to explain about the feminine. Then we would sit in silence before a time of sharing. I would encourage the women to speak, saying that sharing helps to make their own inner knowing more real. 

But as time went by, I felt drawn to creating a space where I could listen to the women. Not just to their words, but to their silence. And this was a turning point. 

One day, I sat in front of the women, and looked around in silence. I found myself taking time to really look in their eyes. There I sat, receptive, welcoming. And I said, “I have nothing to say. I need to hear from you.”

And something profound took place in the circle. The women began to speak about their longing, their need to find a depth and beauty within themselves. I relaxed. I realized I didn’t need to hold the circle by filling the space with ideas or even my knowledge of the feminine. I witnessed the circle itself open up. And rain, the rain of grace, flowed in as naturally as our own breath flows in and out.

I want to emphasize this, because we are so unaccustomed to working with space and silence in this way. I found an inner silence expanded even as the women talked and shared among the circle. 

In silence there is eloquence.

Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves. - Rumi

Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, has spent over thirty years recording the silence in national parks like Olympia and elsewhere. He has witnessed how the places of silence, free from noise pollution, are rapidly disappearing. And at the same time, from his research, he came to the awareness that a square inch of natural silence can affect up to 20 miles all around it.

What happens when we each preserve a square inch of quiet? This is not just for the circles - but in our lives. To preserve this quiet, this inner silence, to take notice of the aliveness of this kind of silence. 

At night, when I go into my room, and close the door, I like to read. But lately, I put down the book, close my eyes, and sit up in bed. I turn my attention within, in a way that some might call prayer. I feel I am preserving this square inch of silence within myself. It’s an opening to an inner space that is the same quality as within the circles with the women at the shelter. Sometimes, of late, when I am tired from the demands of the day, it is like seeing stars in the dark night sky.

When the day seems to close in, and the demands increase, I find I have to stop, even just for a moment. To go back to the breath; to return to where I can glimpse this inner world – this inner silent song.

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  • Melissa says,

Such a beautiful, well-written, eloquent piece.

  • Carol Maslow says,

I am blessed to live in a deep forest where silence is the norm, and though caring for this acreage and this old house is really too much for my aged partner and for me, we find we cannot leave. Much time is spent in being quiet, in prayer, in meditation, in listening. Thank you for sharing how this can ripple outward.

  • anne says,

Thank you so much Carol, for sharing about the deep forest, and your relationship to the place and land.

  • Tracy Shaw says,

Deep gratitude for this beautiful invitation to trust silence... a pull I frequently feel but don't always honour. xxx

  • Anonymous says,

Dear Ann,
Big hello from Montague. Thank you for sharing this preciousness.

  • Najeea says,

Thank you. I needed this today. Much love and gratitude.

  • VĂ©ronique says,

Thank you so much Anne,
your words are nourishing and confirming. I have, of late, become more aware of space, sacred space. I too live next door to the bush and I love the quietness. I didn't know that "a square inch of natural silence can affect up to 20 miles all around it"... it gave me a feeling of responsibility...
with gratitude and love

  • Anonymous says,

Thank you, Anne, for the beautiful reminder to listen rather than fill up the space with ourselves.

  • Juliana says,

A few months ago we relocated from the woods of Wisconsin to an assisted living facility in MN. I am a caregiver and am assisted by the angels here at Serenity Place. The saving grace of living in this very very small apartment is the huge view out of the third floor corner windows. It is here that I am nourished with a square inch of silence each morning. It is a blessing, and your blog is a double blessing. Thank you, Anne, for continuing to buoy me up all these years with your beautiful blog.

  • anne says,

Juliana, as I read what you wrote, and the others too, I had a such a strong sense of our being connected. I was reminded of an image that came in the night, years ago - of how women can work together. Each woman lived her own unique relationship to the Sacred, and yet, were part of a larger fabric made up of lines of light. I will never forget the vibrancy and aliveness of these lines of interconnection. Thank you all for sharing.

  • Fran Carbonaro says,

Thank you, Anne, for this lovely lesson. I find myself sensing into that silence within even when silence is lacking around me. And to make contact with that place in others, finding shared presence or conveying an intention without words.

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