the sound of running

By | 13/01/2014

A couple of tweets yesterday evening prompted me to look back at a post I wrote nearly 2 years ago. I have decided to do an edit / repost…

I think it is fair to say that we are probably afraid of silence and emptiness. We like to occupy and fill up empty time and space. We want to be occupied. I know people who leave the TV on when they are at home, just so there is some noise. I remember days of ‘listening’ to test match special, not because I liked cricket that much, but the sound of some old men wittering on about cake was strangely comforting. And now, the number of people I pass each day,  runners and others going about their business, that are plugged in is very high.

In fact, what is unusual is to see people without headphones.

I wonder why…

Perhaps we are worried that if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, our fears, saying, “But what if …”

And so, perhaps these spaces are filled with our worries, and we then drown out the noise of them as we try to journey through.
The journey to silence has captured the imaginations of many people, but they all seem to share a similar theme; silence is hard.

One of my favourite poets, George Seferis, says in his poem Mythistorema

If I chose to remain alone, what I longed for
was solitude, not this kind of waiting,
my soul shattered on the horizon,
these lines, these colours, this silence

For me, this bit of the poem emphasises that it can be so hard to actually be silent.

To be silent could be likened to the very heart of our existence being shattered

It is so very hard to allow emptiness and silence to exist in our lives.

It is exhausting. But still, I choose to run with nothing but the sound of my existence and the world around me.

But, at the heart of this, it requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen, despite the pain. It requires trust, surrender, and openness.

Author Ian Adams talks about this practice of being silent as ‘cave time’ and in his book Cave Refectory Road he draws out how essential silence is as part of a healthy spiritual practice.

What can make a practice of silence more manageable is to set aside a specific space, that could be a corner of the room, or a prayer mat, or even a circle marked or drawn out in the sand (or mud at the bottom of the garden). What is important is to mark out the space for a different purpose.

This space becomes your cave, a space you enter into with the specific intention of being silent. A space where the 100 conversations that take place in your head can fade away (I am assuming that its not just me that has a busy head). Create that space and dwell in it.

And, as Ian says, in time, with dedication and openness, we may discover that the darkness is actually filled with light.

And this is what I like most about running in silence. A focused breathing pattern marking out a rhythm, a space for a different purpose. The noise in my head slowly fades.

The fears, the worries, they fade as well.

What is left is what I am, with hints of what have been and might be.

And for me, this is what makes every run a physical experience of what it is to have dreams, to hope.

Grace and peace