The Strengthening Power of Silence


unknown photographer

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”~Rumi


I’ve said I’ve felt “all alone” before, even recently.

Truth be told, I never feel alone.

I may feel alone in my values, alone in my convictions, alone in my stand, but I never feel like I’m unsupported or without comfort.

There is something so powerful being connected to nature. People come and go – each living a life that intersects mine randomly, but nature stands still. It’s energy is intense and vibrant, reflecting and emanating only truth. That’s very comforting. That’s very energizing.

Those who can’t feel things like trees reaching down, grass breathing upward, flowers exhaling , or wind dancing, miss the divine and eternal strength right before their eyes, under their feet, and messing with their hair.

When I pull into the parking lot of the beach I smile. There are so many secrets the ocean holds. Sitting in the sand and opening my mind to contemplate it’s stories, they start to unfold and entertain. But it speaks so softly one would say it doesn’t speak at all – that it’s silent.

There’s a lot to be said for silence. It protects the truth and veils the meaning of wonderful stories for those who are patient and desiring to delve deeper into the heart.

When I was a very little girl, until I was in my early 20’s, I was very quiet. I spoke when I had something to say. Otherwise, I watched, listened, danced and drew pictures of nature. The music and movement expressed my heart perfectly. The art expanded my mind to different worlds.

Then I started a family and had to learn the delicate and fascinating art of verbal communication.

Words. Endless words rearranged countless ways with different emotions sprinkled in to convey a heart that speaks a different language – one that nature understands, but loses a lot in translation. Years and years of words that go in circles around truth. Silent truth.

I’ve concluded that very few if any words are needed to convey truth. If one can’t feel your heart, words get in the way and complicate things.

It may be time for silence and more communion with nature.

That feels right.


What If Today…You Gave Your Heart a Hug?

“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” ~Blaise Pascal

“Do your eyes get hot and you have to cry?” James asked. He has asked me that question twice in two weeks. I guess that’s how he feels when he knows that the tears are brimming, and threatening to break through the dam of a stoic heart.

Yesterday we were hurrying to the bus stop to meet Kenny and Madeleine in the rain when I remembered the Chinese Forget-Me-Nots I’d planted 10 days earlier. There they were, sprouting all on their own, no help from me.

That’s how I experience tears from a hurting heart; sprouting from the depths, covered up with thick mulch. pushing themselves to the surface, demanding to be seen. They never need my help, and rarely remind me of their presence lurking below the surface, their source of nourishment being unfinished business and sometimes regrets and sorrows.

Problem for me is that those feelings aren’t who I am, but they end up defining me when I don’t “manage” them or when I unconsciously expect other people to manage them for me. You see, I feel things deeply and tend to over-share with people. And that can overwhelm people unnecessarily. I’m okay with vulnerability. But this is different. This is like walking around naked all the time!

Just yesterday I’d been joyfully going about, spending the morning  with my mom, napping peacefully in the middle of the day, waking refreshed and ready to spend more time with her in the evening. We laughed, talked, solved problems and thoroughly enjoyed each other.

So, the sadness that poked through as I climbed the cellar stairs was not a welcome visitor this morning. Why the randomness? Why today? Memories were flooding in. I’d plug one hole and another would burst open, threatening to overflow and overtake all the good feelings that were struggling for time and space to make new memories today, tomorrow and the next day.

Pushing down the feelings as hard as I could I realized I wasn’t going to win. But I didn’t feel like crying either. Instead I did something new. And remarkably, it felt right.

I finished my ascent of the stairs and mentally took my heart out and gave it a hug.

(I know. Sounds strange. Even to me.)

I’ve been up for a few hours and have had to do a lot of “stuff” already. So far, so good, as they say. My heart is sad, but I’m not. I consider that a minor miracle! Don’t get me wrong. I love a good hug. And I’ll take one any day, for any reason. But I need to live as I’m living. Do you know what I mean? I want to experience joy…even with sadness poking through every now and again.

I’ve learned that  you can’t go around denying your feelings. You can try, but they will make themselves known somehow, just like my Forget-Me-Nots, probably when you least expect it.

May as well acknowledge them when they pop up ’cause the source is easier to identify when they first sprout.

So….give your heart a hug when it needs it.

Just a thought.

What Does Your Heart See?

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”  Anais Nin

“He’s ugly!” she said with a frown and a squirm from her seat. The room went silent. There were a  few shy giggles from some of the younger children who I could tell were suddenly assessing their opinion of the face of the man in the picture I was holding up as I told a story of him.

I was shocked, not because I wasn’t used to hearing about “ugly”, but because I knew I had to say something. It was one of those moments. And there are some things that I don’t do. Shaming a child is one of them. But, I was taken aback by the severe comment.

“I think he’s very handsome,” I blurted out without thinking. “Look at his eyes, and how calm his face is. He glows!”

She wasn’t sold on the “handsome,” and shook her head vehemently. “No. He’s ugly.”

The man in the picture who lived back in the early 1800’s didn’t need my defending. He was handsome and that was all there was to it. But the children were collectively holding their breath, waiting to see who would win the war of ugly that was unfolding before their eyes. I said, looking straight into her eyes, as kindly as I could, “We see with our hearts.”

She squirmed again, and I could see her trying to understand what I’d said. To help her a bit I continued, “He looks stiff and uncomfortable, doesn’t he?” We talked briefly about picture-taking back then and how still a person had to be to have their picture taken.

“Maybe it’s just his hair.” So we joked about hairstyles in the 1800’s and agreed we like ours better.

I could see her heart softening to possibilities of beauty.

Neither of us “won” the perception “war”, but I knew we’d made progress. There had been a teaching moment for both of us. I needed to be the champion of beauty – the one who valued the soul of the person while giving place to the influence of a person’s life’s circumstances.  She needed to cultivate the ability to see beyond what her eyes were telling her while at the same time trusting her gut that she saw something that made her uncomfortable.

Last week my two little boys, Kenney and James, sat next to me for over an hour watching a National Geographic documentary on China’s Elephant Man.

They were mesmerized and scared at first by the face of Huang Chuncai. But they watched my reaction to the images and the heart-breaking story, and slowly saw him the way I saw him: he was a beautiful little boy (now a man) whose face and life were transformed, altered, and challenged by a huge tumor, who still needed friends, wanted to play, and was deeply appreciated by his family who treated him like the rest of the family even though he needed special care and attention. He was no longer grotesque and scary to my boys. I think they would have played with him if they had a chance. It just took being introduced to other possibilities in perception for them to make the shift.

I’ll leave you with a few questions and a story for you to contemplate as I will, too:

When I struggle, do you see my weakness or my strength?

When I produce something less than perfect, do you see success or failure?

When I speak, do you listen for my ignorance or my insights?

We can tell a lot about the state of our hearts and our perceptions of others with questions like these.

Here’s a story I found that goes a little deeper:

An old man sat outside the walls of a great city. When travelers approached they would ask the old man: “What kind of people live in this city?” And the old man would answer: “What kind of people lived in the place where you came from?” If the travelers answered: “Only bad people lived in the place where we came from.” Then the old man would reply: “Continue on, you will find only bad people here.” But if the travelers answered: “Only good people lived in the place where we have come from.” Then the old man would say: “Enter, for here, too, you will find only good people.” Noah benShae, The Word, Jewish Wisdom Through Time

I hope we will want to train our hearts every day to ignore the darkness that the world paints over, through, and around the intrinsic beauty that’s always right in front of us.