Monday, April 5, 2010

Silence as a bridge between

For the last few days I have been reading Robert Sardello's Silence, in anticipation of an upcoming silent retreat. This morning he talked about the role of silence in a relationship, which was intriguing to me because... well, I'm in a relationship, and my husband doesn't seem all that comfortable with silence.

He's one of those people that has the radio going all the time -- and if, as yesterday, he's working in different rooms of the house, he'll have the radio going in as many as three different rooms. I've come home to find 2 radios going and even the TV on -- with no-one watching.

You would think -- given my own predilection for silence -- that this would make us incompatible. And yet -- 25 years in -- it doesn't seem to. In fact, last night we watched Woody Allen's movie, Husbands and Wives, and he continually turned to me to utter variations on the theme, "Do other married people really talk to each other like that?"

Having been married before -- for 10 years -- I could say, yes, I believe they do.

"But, why?" he asked.

I think, I replied, it's because they are so wrapped up in their own insecurities that neither hears the other speak, or has anything to offer when the other is needy. I'm wondering if that's why this image leaped off the computer for me. Perhaps silence is the bridge between two people. And it doesn't matter if one or the other prefers an environment with silence or noise.

What matters is that when one speaks, the other quiets his or her internal voices long enough to listen to what is really being said. And this attentive listening creates a bridge from one soul to the other. At different times we may make different choices about where to stand on that bridge, or how far to walk toward the other. But as long as we continue to create the bridge -- whether in a marriage, or between friends, or just in passing interactions -- we two are linked, and it doesn't matter how different our individual ecosystems may be.

Writing this, I think of the young woman who was running the cash register at our local Rite-Aid Saturday evening. We stopped by on our way home from Prairie Home Companion to pick up some Nyquil (I've caught my husband's cold), and when I stepped forward to pay for it, she looked at it, then looked at me and said, "Oh, do you have a cold?"

When I replied in the affirmative and handed her my money, she rang it up, and then said, as I was leaving, "Happy Easter; I hope you feel better soon!" It is, I know, a small thing. But she stepped beyond her own concerns, if only for a moment; she paid attention, and noticed, and stepped out onto the bridge between us with two offerings -- and it made a difference in my day. I'm hoping I can begin to do more of that kind of attentive listening; that in consciously silencing my monkey mind every morning -- and in my primary relationship -- I am learning to do that more effectively in the presence of others.

We'll see; I still have a lot to learn!

1 comment:

Maureen said...

The bridge is used in couples counseling. One therapist I know uses it in her visualizations with couples, to get them to imagine and see what it is like to, as she says, "leave your world and go to the foreign country" your spouse or partner occupies. She sets guidelines for the visitor. It can be eye-opening what the other learns when time is taken for a visit to the other side. She's quite effective at what she does.