The Intimacy of Silence

One of my favourite things in the world is to sit by a log fire with a cup of tea, a blanket and a host of lit candles and read. It’s magical and cosy and for me it’s one of the most precious treasures in life, as I can indulge in it so rarely. I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in many different places and countries, and wherever I’ve been (with or without the log fire), I’ve spent days just like this, reading. The cosiest were naturally those days when it was stormy, rainy, cold and grey outside. Living in Denmark most days between October and May were like that. And yet, every time I lifted my eyes from the page and looked out over the lake, I was struck by the beauty of the monochrome wind-lashed landscape. The worse the weather, the cosier and warmer and dearer the sitting room became.

And what makes a reading day like this utterly, exquisitely perfect, is reading in silent company. When two or more people are gathered to read together, it creates a sacred space of profound intimacy. It’s that sacred silence that give libraries their peculiar quality (that along with the semi-mummified bespectacled librarian guarding the electronic gates to the Reign of Bookworms). I remember the singular pleasure of some Sunday mornings at university. Late in the morning a small gathering of friends would quietly congregate in my room (as it was the largest and nearest), each bearing a selection of breakfast goodies (crumpets, jams, croissants) and Sunday papers. With minimal talking in hushed tones we set about breakfasting and reading the papers. The travel and lifestyle sections made the rounds before we settled into the crosswords.

Having people in your life with whom you’re able to spend time in comfortable silence is a rare blessing. When you’re deeply connected, there’s no need to talk to be with each other. Words seem superfluous and just occupying the same space brings a feeling of soulful well-being and togetherness. And yes, it also works virtually, occupying the same virtual space in silence or punctuated silence can have the precise same effect.

When I’m feeling that deep connection, it manifests itself as a physical warmth and light pressure in my chest that infuses my arms and warms my hands. I can feel a very low hum, a low vibration in my solar plexus and my throat. It’s like the notes of late afternoon sunshine moving through me, and I can’t help but smile.

Richard Bach wrote, “the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy”, and a beautiful manifestation of intimacy is simply being in prolonged silence with someone important to you.

What does intimacy mean to you?  How can you achieve greater intimacy with those important to you?  What does it give you?  And in that space of intimacy and silence, what can you give others?

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