A Fear of the Nothing

I like to attend retreats as much as I like leading them. One of the ones of special note coming up is with Cynthia Bourgeault. She is the author of one of my favorite recent reads, The Wisdom Jesus.

Her site describes her as a “hermit priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader;” she has done a lot of work around Centering Prayer and meditation, and worked with Thomas Keating. I am reading another of her books, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, and I’m finding it quite interesting. I’m very excited that she’s doing a three day retreat up at San Damiano later this month. The only part that scares me a little bit is that it is a SILENT retreat.
Silence at the Academy
So, I’m an extrovert. I mean, I do love silence, and there are lots of times I like nothing better than to sit quietly on my own. But generally, I am reading, or writing, or I have some sort of input. Or, I might be sitting on BART (its our local train system, Bay Area Rapid Transit) as I go to work, and I enjoy a kind of solitude there. Total silence, now that is a different kind of thing.

It’s funny that I am afraid of silence. Of being alone with myself. I am not afraid to get up in front of people and do Improvisational comedy; without a script or without any sense of what the group I’m working with might do next. We can make up whole scenes and worlds, and I remain within my comfort zone. I’ll even sing in front of people in Improv, without knowing what kind of music might be played for me. And, without even being that confident in my own voice.

But, facing myself, and doing it in the quiet, that is a different matter. It seems a little bit like “The Never Ending Story,” when Atrayu is trying to stop the Nothing. He has a good luck dragon, Falcor by his side, who keeps him safe and sound and leads him to the princess. Perhaps it is a matter of trust, of wishing I had a companion with me, my own Falcor. More than anything in Improv, I trust those other people in the group to “play nice.” We’ve all agreed to “make each other look good,” we are Falcors for each other to catch one another if we fall. What if I find something ugly in the quiet? Without anyone there to help it look nice? Without anyone to laugh it away with me? What if I can’t deal with the Nothing?

I guess I need to take a deep breath and realize this, too, can be met with the rules of Improv. I’m betting the Creator wants each of us to “look good,” and wants us to fulfill the promise we’ve each been placed here to fill. Instead of this being played out in front of other people, it will be played out inside, in the silence, where God named me, where God made each of us. Instead of meeting the Nothing, I indeed will be face to face with The Something. We just need to enter in to the silence, which some say is God’s language. I will go, and I will take heart in one of my favorite lines, a mantra of sorts, “Be still and know that I am God.”

On a totally unrelated note, I present you this bit of joy from our family holidays:

December 08 178

Joey, an Italian Greyhound, enjoys pink wigs, long walks on the beach, chasing grouse at dusk, endorses the use of “doggles,” and delights in the musings of Dame Edna.