Monday, August 27, 2012

In Search of Silence

I am looking for silence. I have been looking everywhere for a long time.

Not the silence that falls between two people in the middle of a fight. That is fraught with unspoken words, prickly ones in the air like allergens, irritating all the psychic senses. It is a relief when someone finally snatches at the subtext and speaks.

And not the silence of Nature, though a quiet forest is a great relief. But that is a silence filled with living. That is beetles and boughs and rodents going about their business with no regard to the mute observer.

And not the silence of cities, the void that yawns beneath traffic noises and jackhammers, beneath change machines and coffee cups clinking, beneath jukeboxes and beer bottles - the sterile emptiness where no communication is going on, no one is really connecting.

I mean the deeper inner silence of the soul, something that could speak but chooses not to. I mean the silence of a peaceful mind. It is something the mentally ill seldom experience. I haven’t seen it since childhood, myself.

I remember watching dust motes as they danced peacefully in a window embrasure. I must have done it for minutes on end. Just looking, fulfilled and timeless, my mind suspended and turning slowly, like they were doing. Nothing else existed at that moment.

I remember sinking backwards beneath the bath water, eyes open to the wavering fairy light, ears reverberating with the amplified tap of my fingers on the tub wall.

I was not thinking then. I did not have to. Those were good days. But they ended with the advent of hormones, for me. I became bipolar at puberty.

The mystics say that the true center of every soul is a vast and spacious stillness, laced with stars and smelling of forever. I have lain in meditation time after time and tried to reach it, following my breath, counting inhale and exhale, shut off from everything else in the world. There comes a moment when that silence sidles up to me, nudges me softly and whispers, “Stop counting.”

Maybe, for an instant, I do.

Immediately the brain starts screaming in terror. “My God!” it says, “We’ll explode out of our body and disappear! Don’t do it!” And then the yammering starts again, the ceaseless yammering on any subject and none - the aimless, hopeless, pointless gossip of the mind that drove me to meditation in the first place.

I have looked for silence in anti-psychotics, but the moment I seem to grasp it, savor its  texture, I fall asleep. So I search for it in sleep, but I dream and snore. I have listened for it under great music, and sometimes heard it between two beats.

And I wonder if the brain is right, if I really would pull up anchor from my body and sail away if I found that still center. Leaving the chattering brain behind, all by itself in a jar, spinning wave after wave of spurious story, believing itself an ocean.

(Thanks to the women in my creative writing group, who nominated this piece for my blog)

Deborah is a public speaker and the author of Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. She is currently recording it as an audiobook and CD set.  Deborah has also published two novels. Her books are available at, Kindle Editions, iBookstore, and other major vendors; or you can order them from your local bookstore. Visit her web page at, or see her catalog at She has also narrated a guided meditation CD with her husband, musician Robert Hamaker. Check out sound samples at