Friday, January 27, 2012

The Week of 1/29—Holding a Space for the Breathtaking Unimaginable

I've become quite adept at hearing nothing lately. Either that or I'm going deaf. 

It all started when I began poking around a former President's home at sunrise...

The place is called Riverside Park. As you would expect, it's a park along the river...the Potomac River. And it's right at a bend, which makes everything more spectacular. It's part of what was once George Washington's property and it flanks the grounds of Mount Vernon today. Just beyond the trees there in the picture is George's home. He had impeccable taste, because there is something very special about this particular stretch of land. 

But before I get to that, I should mention that people truck in from surrounding zip codes just to see the sunsets at this park. They're spectacular, and if you're in the area on a fair day, I highly recommend catching one.

Riverside Park is situated along the GW Parkway. The Parkway runs through Northern Virginia, from Mount Vernon to McLean, cutting a swath across the Beltway, the DC area's circumferential highway. But it's more than a way to get from point A to point B. It is a breathtaking scenic highway, along which you can see spring's cherry blossoms against a backdrop of DC's monuments, July's fireworks reflecting on the Potomac and a display of fall color that, after summer's oppressive heat, reminds you why you live here.

As you can imagine, the GW Parkway is a significant route into DC and through the surrounding area. You have to at least cross it to reach DC from VA and you pretty much have to be on it to get to and from National Airport. Plus there's a bike path that runs along it. So it's well populated. With Riverside Park being maybe 100 yards off the parkway, "quiet" is not a word most people would use for this park. But what I discovered is that's it's only because they're not listening. 

Sunset over George's home comes with added magic.
I mentioned before about how popular sunsets are there. That's why I prefer the sunrises. I get to feel like I have the river all to myself. And the magic I discovered there soon after becoming a "regular" is that the loudness of the silence there drowns out the loudness of the noise.

I'm a big fan of quiet and have always sought it out in remote places. But even there you have to learn how to listen beneath the chirping birds and rustling leaves to hear the silence. Yet at Riverside Park, it's practically unavoidable, despite the cars whizzing by just paces away. I don't think I was conscious of hearing it it when I first started going there, but after a while you can't NOT hear it.

Now, I'm not talking about a quiet day. This is something even quieter than 3am after a heavy snowfall. This is the sound of complete stillness. The sound of creation. If there was a sound to the eons before the universe ever existed, this sound would be it. And I discovered it for the first time as an adult at a pull off place along a busy roadway during morning rush.

For a while, that's the only place I'd experienced it outside of meditating myself to the depths of nothingness. I say "experienced" because in meditation, it's not as much a sound as it is a way of being. They're two separate, but related, forms of stillness. Merging the two can bring you to a place of ultimate creation and communion. And in that place, everything is possible.

In the past year, I've begun to experience this profound "sound of silence" in my back yard and in my home. I imagine I'll be able to hear it everywhere soon. The more you know it, the more it comes around.

Both sunrises and sunsets are spectacular along this stretch.
Recently I realized that this silence makes the stillness people seek from meditation accessible OUTSIDE the self. So you don't have to go within to get "there". All you have to do is drink in the stillness all around you. Just listen to it. That's all. 

Cool, huh? It's like hitching a ride on nature's meditation session, which runs 24/7/365.

So this week, consider opening yourself to the possibility that this endlessly renewable store of peace, stillness and silence exists out there. If you can't do that much, you'll have a hard time hearing it past the skepticism in your head.

Then go outside and make a concerted effort to hear it. Pick a quiet spot to begin with. Rivers, lakes and ponds seem to make things even quieter, but if you don't have access to any of that, choose your favorite park or sitting spot. Close your eyes. And. Just. Listen. Listen beneath the chirps. Beneath the breeze. Beneath your breath. It's there under everything.

If you don't hear it on your first or second try, don't give up. What I know is this...once you know what it sounds like, you'll recognize it more and more often. And you'll want to hear it again. Also, if you only hear it for a second, count that as a win. I've been hearing it for years and there are still times I can't hold it in my ears for more than just a flash.

If you're the kind of person with relentless chatter in your head, try going about it differently. Sit in your quiet place. Close your eyes and make a point of hearing and acknowledging everything you hear. The chirps. The wind in the bamboo. A distant car. A fly scratching his face. :) Hear EVERYTHING. And while you're at it, feel the temperature and air on your skin. Smell everything in the air. Become so hyper aware of your environment that you feel like it's your superpower. Don't try to quiet your mind, but focus it on all the sensations instead. Somewhere in there you'll be hearing so deeply you'll begin to hear the silence.

If you think you've heard it before, but weren't in awe of it, you haven't heard it yet. If you've heard it but didn't feel it permeate your body, listen again. I walked the earth as a nature lover, quiet enthusiast and hiker for 40 years without hearing it simply because I didn't know it was there to hear. Being in the middle of nowhere in and of itself won't do it for you. You have to listen beneath even that quiet. 

The reason I'm so enthusiastic about this is because it holds within it another secret I've only glossed over so far. If you start hearing it for the first time after reading this, then you'll be clued in to the universe's biggest secret in a profound way—just because you haven't experienced something doesn't mean it's not there. And just holding the possibility that something MAY exist can fetch it from that void of creation and bring it into your everyday reality. 

There is so much going on out there we don't know about simply because we haven't opened our minds wide enough to see. And once we learn that lesson and start holding a space for the breathtaking unimaginable, we'll begin to experience it in our lives.

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