Quiet like the stillness of a windless afternoon, like the darkness of winter with its bare trees framing it, like the still of the house during naps. I never appreciated quiet quite like I do now as a mother. I live for the noise of the children waking up in the morning and then as if to balance out the activity, the joy, the chatter, I crave the quiet of the afternoon when they all go down for naps or rest and I can settle into the late afternoon sunlight and drink in the quiet. Even my dogs know to nap at this time helping to anchor the house in rest as their muzzles sink into the hardwood floors like dancers melting into another dimension.
I learned the practice of Zen meditation this week, the sitting, the slow walking, and found that with an intentional practice that
punctuated my days I soaked more into the quiet, observed myself settling upon myself, and realized that quiet can be further nurtured, silence further engaged, and its sweetness further understood. Focusing on my breath its inhalation and exhalation I learned to settle my mind. Sitting and sinking into silence my spine grew straighter, my shoulders relaxed downward, my sit bones became more grounded. As my mind wandered from place to place and my monkey mind occasionally engaged I found it an invitation to let go of my critic, that voice in your head that says what you fear. And, to instead develop my darling “Keep going, you can do it.”
I never feared quiet, but I am not sure I embraced it quite as I did this autumnal equinox when I noticed the balance it brought to my life. Like the balance of light and dark. It was as if the moon and sun sat on the hips of the earth balancing our days and nights for one sweet span of twenty four hours. I marked this moment of the year with celebration of fire, of the marking of the end of summer, of the sweetness of the beginning of the dark when living things take time to rejuvenate, recreate themselves through winter’s quiet and active hibernation in anticipation of the spring. Spring, when the earth balances again and then tips its scale toward the light.
Liam, my second son, said the other day before I left, as he went down for his nap, “Mom, I’m so lonely.” It’s a refrain I heard my grandmother utter often, a refrain I’ve ridded myself of, a story I no longer tell well before his coming into this world. So how did the whispers of my ancestors enter into his sweet, husky, three year old voice?
I reply, “Liam if you’re lonely then you need more time with yourself–not more time with others. Sink into your nap, rest with yourself. Focus on your breath, in then out.”
My oldest, Finny, chimes in from the top bunk, “Yeah, everyone you have ever loved is within you Liam. Right mom?” Recalling a conversation we had recently, that I hadn’t known sunk into him.
We’ve skittered across this grand Country and I claim each place I have lived, held–the crest of Steamers Lane, the the trails of the Dale Ball, the rivers of the Minnesota, the jagged, granite, rocks of the Atlantic coast. May my boys know how to settle their
self upon their self. May I be a teacher to them, may I learn from them, and may they too grow to love the quiet and sink into their new home.
How might you find balance in the quiet parts of your life? How does your quiet inform your activity? Allow you a supple and strong spine ready to respond to the world?