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The freedom waiting in stillness

There was a note waiting for me when I opened my e-mail this morning which I'd like to share. It said, in part, “Thank you for your wonderful website. And thank you for sharing your experiences. I went through a tough time the last three years and made a decision to change myself today. I found your website to be very helpful."

We tend to think that having a comfortable, happy, nicely ordered life is a good thing, and perhaps it is. In fact, we may even feel a tinge of envy as we observe a friend or stranger who has an apparently comfortable, happy, exciting life.

But  change -- drastic change – is absolutely essential at times if we are to taste true freedom.

And times of despair and anguish, difficult though they may be, can open a door to authentic happiness and peace that otherwise might have remained closed.

Listening below the noise

Sometimes drastic change is thrust upon us by external circumstance -- and sometimes it comes upon us because we ourselves seek it out.

This was the case with Anne D. LeClaire, author of a beautiful book I have been reading entitled Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence.

Seventeen years ago LeClaire, who lives on Cape Cod, decided to turn an ordinary Monday into a day of silence.  Little did she realize that she had begun an inner voyage that -- as her book most eloquently portrays -- would transform her life.

She has practiced total silence two days a month ever since, and found a center of calm and peace in herself because of this practice that has transformed her life.

The grace back of adversity

After living for 36 years in a spiritual community in British Columbia I was sure the moreorless calm, ordered existence I had known would continue forever.

Mind you, I nodded my head when people spoke of change, the need for change.  But the notion that the community might actually come to an end one day was moreorless inconceivable to me.

But, of course, that was what happened. At the age of 63, following the death of the leader, I had no choice but to come back into the world I had forsaken in the naive idealism of youth.

What Despair. What Catastrophe.

As I walked the streets of Vancouver, lost and alone, I thought I had never known such despair or emptiness.

But I chuckle now as I think of these things.

Because what seemed like catastrophe led me after a time of agony and confusion and terror to a deeper connection with my own authentic Self that might never have happened if life had not grabbed me by the throat and said: "Time for a change."

Life – shall I say God? -- plays hard for sure. But I know now that its intent is kind, and merciful.

Life wants us to be free

Life wants us to be free. And whatever it takes to help us be free, that it is what it will do.

Of course, we have to play our part in the process. It takes patience, and courage, and trust, as Anne LeClaire discovered, to find the treasure hidden within the silence of our own heart.

We discover that stillness is not "emptiness" but is the core of our own true presence. It is the very source of the authentic freedom and happiness for which we have secretly longed.

Picture credit:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Jimenez Frid September 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

The words “be still and know” come into mind here. When a cycle of change commences in one’s life, be it an immense change or a small one, there is new and often confusing energy that one needs to adapt to. Familiarity is hard to let go of. …And at the same time, the excitement of the new situation, be it welcomed or not, can be exhilarating and will add to our character depending on how one adjusts and accepts the changes.

Thank you Chris for these wonderful words that point to freedom and expansion.

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Christopher Foster September 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Thanks for this great comment Maria. You get to the crux of things here. It reminds me of something I read some time which if I remember rightly went like this…the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is ‘opportunity.’

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Gloria Rubin September 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

In silence, the space between, one can hear angel wings! Thanks Chris

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Christopher Foster September 25, 2010 at 7:59 am

What a lovely thought Gloria. I agree.

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Bill Gerlach September 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Hi Chris,

Just stumbled upon you via a tweet by Robin Easton. After reading this post and the story behind the blog, I’m glad I did. Just beautiful. It resonates.

I often wonder why so many are afraid of silence, the invitation of stillness for our mind. I will often drive my entire hour and a half commute to work with nothing more than the hum of the car around me. But you know what? It’s just beautiful. Silence is an invitation for the deepest parts of our being to shine and absorb all that is around us.

Thanks for the recommendation on the book. I’ll have to put it in queue at our library. Be well.
Bill Gerlach recently posted..The Push and Pull of Life’s Beautiful Bliss

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Christopher Foster September 25, 2010 at 7:59 am

So good to hear from you Bill. Thanks a lot for your comment. And I must thank Robin for her tweet. I think there is actually a whole tribe of people in the world who do have a sense of connection with silence, who find it uplifting rather than frightening. Personally, I think stillness is really the base of community and true friendship. I read a quote one time from a Navajo Indian of long ago that really resonated for me: “Silence is the cornerstone of true character.”
You be well too Bill, and thanks again for stopping by.

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Larry September 27, 2010 at 4:01 am

Chris, wonderful article. I love and cherish the quiet moments in my life. If having a stressful day, I often walk out to the small patio I have near the creek perhaps 500 feet or so from our home. I often just sit, close my eyes and just listen.

I also want to add that I’ve found “drastic change” and even some of the most difficult times in my life often resulted in some of most wonderful things. Our move to the NC Mountains was the direct result of drastic change and difficult times. What a blessing from such a dark time.

Keep up the great writing!
Larry recently posted..Increase blog traffic – 5 easy ways

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Christopher Foster September 27, 2010 at 8:59 am

Thanks for your comment Larry. Don’t I wish I had a small patio near a creek but to be honest things have worked out quite well with our move and it’s only a 5 minute walk to a small creek where I can stop and listen to the sound of some running water…it’s one of the most lovely sounds in the world isn’t it?

Thanks too for sharing how drastic change and difficult times brought you to the mountains you and your family love. Good to share these few moments with you and thank you for all you are doing to help me with my blog.

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