In my twenties it took a friend of mine two years of encouragement for me to finally sit a 10 day silent meditation retreat; the prospect terrified me but eventually the curiosity to explore the inner landscape of my being gained the upper-hand and the retreat became a turning point in my life. Space, solitude and silence are rare commodities in a world of digital devices; and the more deeply immersed we become in our digitalised 24/7 culture the harder it becomes for our increasingly activated nervous systems to down regulate; no doubt it’s the cause of the sleep crisis endemic in ours and other digitalised cultures. Like a car shifting from fifth to first gear, it can seem too big a gap to traverse; space and silence can feel unnervingly like emptiness, a void with uncomfortable echoes of loneliness and abandonment.
My summer has brought me a change of rhythm that allowed pleasure to nourish me body, mind and soul; I noticed how a two week break away from usual routines was like a gradual watering; unwittingly I was a wilted plant that was now returning to its full shape, refreshed by that which is essential to life and spirit.
This was a very embodied reminder of how the little and big stressors of life can gradually deplete until we are so chronically out of our shape that we fail to recognise how far from ourselves we have travelled. Our all pervasive busyness can demand a high price both personally and planetary and in reality aren’t so many of us simply chasing our tails whilst inadvertently destroying the planet; threatening our very survival as we do so. It seems nothing short of a radical act to consciously stop our ‘important’ busyness just for half an hour a day, or heaven forbid a whole week or more so that we may, in the words of Mary Oliver, fly low, quiet as a feather… and discover stillness as one of the doors to the temple.
In most wisdom traditions, including the Pagan and Celtic wisdom of these lands, space was not perceived as empty in the way that our western minds and language suggest. With a more nuanced language and understanding, emptiness/space/darkness was understood to be life giving; a womb of the most refined and subtle of energies containing within it a vast field of pure potentiality; a paradox of emptiness and fullness. Many eastern traditions such as Yoga provide philosophical maps and practical technologies (movement/breath/diet and lifestyle) to navigate our inner space.
Entering this inner space we discover there is nothing to own, consume or capitalise, though the growth of the wellbeing industry proves Marx’s prediction right – that capitalism will take our souls and then sell it back to us.
In a globalised economy most of us live within an ideological paradigm that drives an agenda of relentless economic growth and permanent states of fullness through endless consumption. To do so within a living system of finite resources is now resulting in a handful of multi-millionaire men competing to send rockets into outer space to claim ownership of and exploit the precious resources that the Moon or Mars may yield in order that they may hold the technological power back here on Earth.
It seems that the most radical action we can take to re-set the course of our personal lives and life on this planet is to consciously slow down, simplify and take some time in silence. If this prospect seems terrifying try recalling the words of poet David Whyte; start close in with the one step that you do not want to take but cannot refuse.
My wish is that we each find our way to befriending stillness and silence and in so doing discover the priceless gift of connection to our inner space and the mystery that is so much greater than ourselves.
Ali ROSE is a Registered Somatic Therapist, combining talking, clothed touch and movement to support you physically, emotionally and psychologically. Recognising body and mind as inseparable we give space to what the body knows and support the body-mind integration of life experiences. Click HERE to find out more about her individual therapy work in Chepstow and Bristol or follow on Instagram AliRose Somatic Therapy