Jerry Garcia, the late, great, oft lamented guitarist and singer for the Grateful Dead once said that the very best Dead shows had a moment of silence in them. On the surface it might sound like a strange idea – after all, we expect rock concerts to be loud! But under the surface arriving at that quiet moment takes an almost mystical synergy between the members of the band and the audience. Somehow, suddenly, everyone arrives at the same point in time, space, and intention and a moment of silence is born out of the cacophony of sound. The very best shows have a moment of silence.
We might say the same about the days of our lives (might be a good title for a soap opera one day). Moments of silence, of quiet, are few and far between these days. We cherish them more and more in the midst of our noisy lives, with constant sound and stimulation. A recent article in the NY Times about the high tech world’s search for ‘mindfulness’ at the ever more popular Wisdom 2.0 conferences (http://www.wisdom2summit.com) points to this yearning. The folks who got us into this mess are trying to find a personal way out of it – or at least to create breaks from the noise in the course of their days and weeks. One section of the article described one of the Twitter founders taking a 20 minute walk without his mobile phone – can you believe that?! Unprecedented! The simple truth is that mindfulness requires two things that are in very short supply these days. One is time – uninterrupted blocks of time without an incoming email, text, or phone call. The second thing is quiet – finding a place where you can listen to the silence to see what it says, what it can teach you, and where it can lead you. The very best days have a moment of silence.
Just yesterday I found one of those moments. Walking the pooch, a crisp fall day, dusk. The neighborhood was quiet and the dog contemplative, listening in his own way to the vacuum of sound. No cars, no wind. In that moment of quiet I heard a dry rustling that would have been drowned out by even the slightest noise. I could not locate it for a few seconds until I realized what it was – the sound of falling leaves. Just scraping the air with their dry husks on their way to the earth. Where else but in a moment of silent can you hear the sound of falling leaves?