‘If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.’ (Pablo Neruda; Keeping Quiet)

I’ve allowed stillness to greet me, each day, for over a month now. At the end of every single day, I sit down by the huge bay window at the side of my bed and watch the ziziphus tree, right outside. Sometimes, I leave for an early morning walk and sit on a lone bench by the roadside watching the silhouette of trees against a colour changing skyline. It hasn’t been deliberate or on purpose. I was just tired of having turned into a human “doing” from a human “being”. I wanted to simply “be” for a day or two. But what started off as an odd one-day exercise became so precious to me that I began to feel incomplete without it.

Then I read Neruda, asking me to keep still to the count of twelve. So, I went back to the bay window and sat right there for twelve minutes precisely. I watched in silence; a foliage huddled together in absolute quietude. What a wonderful way to be. To understand each other’s silences and never feel the need to speak. To exist without caring for what would befall you. To stoically face not just the changing season but all else that you can or cannot control. Twelve minutes were all that I needed each day.

But Neruda probably meant twelve months. So, I decided to extend my stillness to twelve days at least. Sometimes in the company of the ziziphus and on other days, in the presence of the solitary bench.

Gradually, the twelve days got extended by another week. I wanted to save my counts for this still outing and naturally, I had to cut down on something. I couldn’t give up everything. Some of the “doing” is part of survival, isn’t it? So, I decided to give up on several conversations that I was having for no reason at all. Because the fact of the matter was that despite all the exchanges I was having, there was an inexplicable sadness that hung by an unseen thread. I often tried to pin that sadness to my targets, to not being able to write or to other people around me. Neruda told me that the sadness that engulfs me arises from my inability to understand myself and to instead have that one conversation with myself. Only and only silence can interrupt this sadness, he said.

Like any other habit, silence is infectious. It puts you in a zone where you no longer care for others to speak with you. (That should explain my absence from the online world too). You immerse yourself in its warm blanket, just like you soak up the sun. It swells up your soul, its honeycomb-yellow sprinkles like stardust in your insides. This is the closest I can get to explaining how it feels. I wish I could do it better.

Neruda says a lot more in his poem. About how “Keeping Quiet” can help save the earth too. I might explore that as well, for I do agree with his observation. But for now, I’m glad it’s simply come to my rescue.  

18 thoughts on “KEEPING STILL”

  1. You can believe me blindly, if I say- I hear you. This silence has been comforting me for quite a while now. But again, the guilt of ‘not doing something’ ( yes, that includes some ‘meaningless’ conversations too) pops up and then….begins an episode that I won’t call my favorite.
    Hope, with your new companion around, you find what you looking for. Best wishes, Sonia.

  2. Silence is indeed infectious, Sonia. To switch off and embrace the silence, to not “do” anything.
    It appears scary to begin with but is so calming.

  3. I really appreciate your lovely meditation on the stillness of being. I’ve seen Neruda quoted several times recently. I need to make some time to read more of his work. I think I would benefit from it.

  4. Thanks for sharing this post , Sonia ! I could connect with it because even I have been feeling quite lost since past few days . The writing, the existence itself and the art of just doing something or the other has been little fast paced for me or rather I feel it that way. Silence is infectious, it surely is! I loved the post and feel at ease that it’s not just me !!This feeling is natural and beautifully penned by you!

  5. Wow!! Who thought keeping still would be such a great deal but it is! It’s rather a life skill that you acquire with meditative mindfulness!! And what an ode your writing is, to this adroitness. I’m so attracted towards things looking inwards and serene!! Thankyou for writing this calming piece of wisdom ❤️❤️

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