Speaking and silence

You'll be receiving this just before erev Yom Kippur, right before our evening Kol Nidre service. This is a solemn service, but also the most beautiful. We mourn, we commemorate, we also reflect on our year, our trajectory, our deepest selves. The ancient melody of Kol Nidre grounds us. Some describe it as haunting. Others call it meditative. For my mother, the melody always makes her cry -- it pulls her heart towards the memories of her forebears, those she knew and loved and those in the long history of Jewish generations.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time when we encourage one another to speak up and speak out. Speak out against injustice; ask for forgiveness; tell your truth about yourself. You also hear the rabbi speak about the year to come, what it may bring, things to focus on. We hear the shofar - the blast that wakes us up to the task and road ahead. It is a time of many words, songs, sounds.

Right after Yom Kippur this year, I am leaving for a silent retreat. I want to balance the cacophonous Days of Awe with a few days of rest and silence. This is not to forget all those words, the songs and their resonant meanings, rather it is so they may have time to sink in. I want to drop into the silence so that I can drop deep into myself, solidifying the promises I've made for the year to come.

We live in such a noisy, chatty culture. We can feel bombarded by sounds: traffic, children whining/crying, people asking for our attention, conversation, argument/disagreement, the dings and buzzes of technology, news programs, songs, radio, background noise, smoke alarms, the quotidian noises of daily life. These comprise the soundtrack to our lives. They are often beautiful and wonderful sounds, such as the voices of loved ones, the simple clink of dishes in the sink, even the hum of traffic can be soothing.

At the same time, I really think we all need to find ways to slow down and seek some quiet. This doesn't have to be in the form of a retreat. Meditation, taking a quiet walk, simply sitting still for a while can invite stillness and silence into our lives. We need that more often than we are likely getting it. We need to take a break from all that noise.

My goal this year is that I be able to truly listen. I want to hear, really hear, the people in my life. I want to hear the question behind the question, the unarticulated need, the joyful telling of a story. I'm taking this time to pause, taking a break from talking, partly to quiet the never-ending chatter in my own mind. It's my hope that it will free up a little space for hearing others more clearly.

What will you do after these High Holidays? Is there something you can do to extend the awesomeness of the Days of Awe into the rest of your year?