The ability to be in silence is virtually uncultivated in our culture, what with TVs playing and distractions celebrated 24/7. Sure, many of us got "the look" from talking or even squirming in church, but we were never taught to be still. At least I wasn't.
The first time I ever went to the Ashram, I came up in front of the Guru. Besides my awkwardness and discomfort, I remember the profound silence in the hall. About three hundred people were sitting in stillness, and I was caught in my racing mind, standing frozen and numb.
A year or so later, I was in a small group sitting in the Guru's courtyard. This was, to be sure, an exalted opportunity: there were hundreds of people who would have loved to have been sitting in there, but I knew a guy.... We sat in silence as the Guru sat in a chair, in sunglasses in the bright California sun, inscrutable. My body sat still. I was forty years younger then, and able to sit cross legged on the floor with ease. But my mind. Oooh la la! I'm sure the Guru could hear my constant inner blabbering: "What is going on here??? Why doesn't somebody SAY something? What is going on, what's supposed to be happening????" and on and on and on.
I needed something I could hang my hat on, some words or a song or Something. There was no place in me that knew how to be in silence and my mind struggled, not with some problems of my own, but with the silence itself. The stillness of the mind. I realize now that my father got it on the golf course and my mother in her garden, because everyone seeks the peace of a quiet mind, but that didn't spill over into the rest of their lives, which were tense and stressful. Years later, living at the Ashram, I made my sons go to programs where they had to sit still. I was trying to give them something I never got, the discipline to sit still for an hour and hopefully, cultivate the quiet mind I didn't have.
And so this morning, after I post this, I'll go sit, in the silence. I don't do it often enough and realize that with cold weather, retirement, a town where I know almost no one and a pandemic going on, it is by far the best game in town. When my mind gets quiet in this way, it DOES carry over into the rest of my life. I just have to make that choice, between stillness and distraction.