“Silence is not the only aid to the stillness. There is another, and that, ironically, is speech”.
Someone once said, “don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence” and I found that to be truly profound for many reasons. First of all I find that it is feels true and rings right. We don’t always need to speak and this follows on from my previous post that sometimes not all things need to be said.
Collective silence is however quite different to meditation. Outwardly it may seem similar and even look similar but from the inside of the room where this collective silence is taking place, it is entirely distinct. Sometimes someone within the collective silence circle may be moved to speak. And when they do they tend to speak from a deep, unfamiliar place inside them. I think as long as there is no personal agenda or self-regard, then what this person says will go to contribute to the communal stillness. An insight is unlikely to make a difference to all those listening if it means something only to the person who has said it.
This combination of both silence and speech makes each Quaker meeting unique as I have found. There are meetings which are completely silence with only the sounds of birds piercing the silence. These meetings have their own magic for me. And the times when people do speak I feel that there is always something in it for me and I believe for most people in the room.
In a magazine article quoted in Quaker faith and practice, Thomas R. Bodine wrote:
As a meeting ‘gathers’ … there gradually develops a feeling of belonging to a group who are together seeking a sense of the Presence. The ‘I’ in us beings to feel like ‘we. At some point – it may be early in the meeting or it may be later, or it may never occur at all – we suddenly feel a sense of unity, a sense of togetherness with one another and with that something outside ourselves…