Build Your Leaders

Postcard from New York, NY

December 2009

If you've been following my blog, you know I've been in Manhattan for the past three weeks. The adventure is almost over; I return to Asheville on Tuesday.

Friends wanted to know the purpose of my trip. "Are you there for business?" they asked. The truth is, I am here because I needed to be here; I needed to shake up my routine.

I've rented an apartment in Chelsea. It's cute and in a great location, but it's also noisy. In fact, everywhere I go in New York is noisy. When I checked into the apartment, I found a little book on the fifty best places to go for peace and quiet in New York. I've made it one of my goals to explore at least ten.

I've visited chapels, churches, gardens, New Age centers, even an isolation tank that simulates the womb, and everywhere I've gone I've heard noise. What I'm learning is that peace and quiet in New York may be more a spiritual and emotional state, than a physical one.

This is a city with big energy, and it's easy to get swept up in its force. A visit often means going, going, and going. I don't know if it's the length of time that I've been here, or me, but I've managed to stay pretty grounded on this trip. This trip has been more about being than doing. Progress? I hope so.

During this time of year, we can get caught up in the craziness of the season. I invite you to slow down a little, take a deep breath, and find the peace and quiet that resides within.

This month, we'll explore "The Power of Silence."

The Power of Silence

I am alone in a restaurant and there's a party of twenty across from me who couldn't be louder. Ironically, I am reading an article on silence in Ode Magazine. At first, I feel violated by the noise. Within minutes their voices fade; I am totally absorbed in the article.

The author, Tijn Toubler, a senior editor of Ode, makes four points on silence that resonate with me.

One: When people no longer use words to shield themselves, they shed their masks. They step out of roles, patterns, stories, and cries for attention and tap into that state where everything and everyone is connected. One of the most intimate times in my life was when I sat with my brother Chip in the hospital as he was dying. Sitting in silence, we never felt closer.

Two: Silence can make us anxious. The American-born Buddhist monk Lama Drimed wrote, "Silence is confrontational to the unstable mind. It won't allow you to escape from all the voices in your head." Of these voices, pain, despair, and depression are the scariest. When we speak in public, silence can feel like public enemy number one, yet there is power in pause. When a speaker has the courage to pause and sit with the silence for a few seconds, he or she commands complete attention from the audience.

Three: Silence brings direction. In his article, Toubler said a yogi friend once told him, "To hear the voice of God, you must be silent." When Toubler asked why, his friend replied, "Because God whispers."

Cistercian monk and priest Thomas Keating says, "Silence is the language God speaks and everything else is a bad translation," and Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch writes, "The question is not to whom does God talk, but who listens."

Four: The "eye" must be in balance with the "ear." We live in a time when the eye dominates the ear. Penetrating, controlling, superior, and distant, the "eye" symbolizes male energy. When the "eye" is not kept in balance with the more feminine, reflective, and receptive "ear," it becomes wild and destructive. Joachim E. Berendt, author of Nada Brahama, predicts, "The new human being will be a listening being, or he will not be at all."

I'm beginning to see the wisdom in silence. I am finding that the more I tap into the power of silence, the more I tap into my own innate power.