The power of silence

Silence is a source of great strength.
— Lao Tzu
Abbotsford Convent

Silence is a continuing theme in my life right now and Lao Tzu’s quote has inspired me again. defines silence as the absence of sound; stillness.

I define silence as the great undercurrent that holds everything together.

When sound is absent, there is still something there. If you pay attention and try to hear silence, you can feel it. It is an energy that has a deep and eternal source. It holds us as if in cupped hands even when we’re busy noisemakers, even when we forget that it is there.

It is the silence that carries me when I walk and helps me to keep going when the going gets tough.

On Saturday, I walked to Collingwood Children’s Farm and back, my long 20 kilometre training walk for the week. It’s a favourite route because it is traffic-free (except for bicycles) with no roads to cross and it runs beside the Yarra River.

I love feeling the river’s presence: its quiet strength, how it moves forward without resistance, finds a way around obstacles, carries everything - fresh rains, fallen leaves, debris and things unseen. It reminds me that we don't have to do it all alone. There is something greater that carries us and helps us find a way through the passage of our lives.

On the return journey, my knees and hips were starting to ache so I put on my headphones and started listening to a favourite walking track that I knew would distract me and help me make it home. A minute later I pressed stop and took the headphones out.

I remembered that instead of distracting myself from the discomfort I was feeling, I could lean into the silence and let it carry both the discomfort and me. Although I kept moving and bike riders whizzed passed me and I passed couples chatting as they walked their dogs and the bellbirds called and replied, the silence was still there. I just had to listen beneath the sounds that surrounded me.

I noticed the pain in my hips and my knees and the balls of my feet. There was pain but I was not the pain. It was uncomfortable but I didn’t resist it. I gave it to the silence to carry.

I walked this way the whole way home. The pain increased and my walking pace slowed especially over the last few kilometres but I was able to keep walking and I was content. Tuning into the silence changed the quality of my walk. It enabled me to walk with the pain rather than in conflict with it.

Physical preparation is only one aspect of training for this pilgrimage. It’s not everything. Being physically fit doesn’t mean I will be able to go the distance. I need more than muscles and stamina to keep me going when faced with challenges like constantly changing weather, dead ends, getting lost, being unable to find accommodation, fatigue, loneliness and pain.

When the going gets tough, and even before it gets tough, the silence is there to help support and guide me. I already know it will be a source of great strength.

With love and courage,

Kym xx


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