I Hear You

I used to be uncomfortable whenever there was a lull in a conversation. I used to jump in and fill it with ANYTHING rather than just let any silence be there.

I am noticing that I am a lot more comfortable with silence now.

I am learning how powerful it is.

When someone stops talking and I don’t jump right in with a response, but instead just let there be a gap of nothing for awhile, weird shit happens.

Either the other person gets really quiet and seems to listen to the startling echo of what they just said.


They rush right in and stuff the uncomfortable gap with a wad of verbal padding.

I used to be a verbal padder. Now I am becoming more of an echo appreciator.

Today I found myself telling a friend about this blog, and how I have been  blogging since Ash Wednesday and have kept it going, daily, up to this point, and today is my 100th consecutive post.

As I was talking, he was eating, and seemed more absorbed in his food than my narrative. I got the feeling my story was tiresome to him, but I felt powerless to stop it now that I had started it. I needed it to end, yet I prattled on, wondering why I had even started down this path.

I wanted so desperately to stop, mid-sentence, and  let the whole narrative die, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

When I finally finished, I wanted some silence to happen. But it didn’t.

Instead, he jumped right in, changed the subject, and flew off in another direction.

Some conversations could really benefit from air traffic control.


In Loving Silence

Today we (G and I) attended a brunch to celebrate the new marriage and the the 30 year anniversary of two of our best friends, Zee and Marty. The food was delicious, the company was sparkling, but what touched me the most about the whole day (and so many things touched me) was when Zee asked us all (about 16 guests) to join hands and share a moment of silence with them.

When Zee and Marty got married at the courthouse in Ithaca after New York sanctioned gay marriage, they took their vows in silence.  And then again today, after expressing her love for all of us in attendance, she asked us all to stand in silence together.

In that silence, happy tears fell from many eyes.  It was a moment of holiness, and deep intimacy.  (Zee starts all of her writing circles at Emma’s with a minute or two of silence, too, so it felt like being home.)

At most weddings, I feel snarky.  I think: “What are the odds that this will last?”  A wedding is just the beginning.  Everything is easy in the beginning.  It’s a whole different situation to stand in silence with two people who have weathered the storms of thirty years and still look at each other with love and perfect devotion.

Today I felt honored to stand in such loving silence.

A Little Nibble of Silence

Official “Kath-led Morning Yoga” has now ended for the year and will return with the rains and the robins in April.

But some of us still get up at the butt-crack of dawn on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings to practice Ashtanga.  Nobody teaches it, we just DO IT.  Christine is the expert, so we watch her for the sequence, but then we all just modify and adjust as our bodies dictate.

It’s kind of austere, this yoga.  Especially compared with the classes I teach.  There’s no directions, no guidance, no reminders, no little jokes, no music, no readings, no centering (unless you count the chanting of the Invocation—which I do).  It’s just 3-5 people in a softly-lit room, taking postures and holding them for 5 Ujjayii breaths.

We sweat.  We topple.  We do the best we can with what we have.

We make what Natalie Goldberg once called, “positive effort for the good.”

I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for the others.  The others wouldn’t do if it weren’t for the others either.  When we leave each other and casually say, “See ya in the morning!” that’s our commitment.

Yeah, sometimes things come up and we can’t make it, but most of the time, most of us show up.  For ourselves.  For each other.

It’s a sweaty practice.  Not Bikram-sweaty in that artificially hot room way.  It’s sweaty because there are so many vinyasas, and because in certain difficult postures 5 breaths seems to take an hour.

I ended my practice this morning feeling so blissed-out.  I felt soft, sorted out, clean.  I sat up from my savasana, said my ending prayer, and then all I wanted to do was freeze the day.  Right there.

Or no.  I wanted the day to go onward, but I wanted to continue to just sit there.

And watch it.  I wanted to observe it, like a photographer observes the world through the lens of the camera.  I wanted to be in it, but not OF it.

But the dog needed to be fed.

And I had an appointment to get ready for.

And, really, I had STUFF TO DO!

But I think tomorrow I am going to let myself partake of that yummy quiet for a bit longer.  I am going to nibble at least a small piece of the silence before I launch head-first into my day.

Because really, doesn’t it seem a crime to just have the appetizer without even tasing the entrée?  Especially after all that preparation?

4 Minutes, 33 Seconds

Last night I went to Christine Moulton’s recital.  (Christine’s the one who has me hooked on Ashtanga and keeps me inspired.)  For her “day job” she teaches flute in the MU Music Department (she’s a superstar).

For her recital last night she enlisted a guitarist, an English horn player and a soprano.  The whole thing was great.

For the last piece they performed John Cage’s 4’ 33” (4 minutes, 33 seconds).  This is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.  Here’s what happened:

The musicians came out as if they were going to play.  They adjusted their scores on their stands.  The singer stood, holding her score in a book, open, in her hands.  They nodded to each other to signal the start, and then they sat there.

For 4 minutes and 33 seconds they just sat there.

The audience squirmed.  Some snickered.  Somebody coughed.  The English horn player cleaned her instrument. I could hear sounds from outside the theater.  I closed my eyes and listened to everything I could hear.

After 4’ 33” they stood up, bowed, and we all clapped.

It has always been my experience that when a group of people gather to sit in silence as in a Zen hall or a Quaker Meeting, the silence is very deep and there is an energy to it, a positive “charge.”

It’s invigorating.  (That’s why people like to meditate together.)

Last night’s 4’ 33” wasn’t like that at all.  It was a very tense, anticipatory silence.  It was an awkward, let’s-get-this-thing-over-with silence.  It felt like the audience was holding its collective breath, and when the applause erupted, it felt like a collective exhalation.