Years ago I came across an idea about silence that has stuck with me. It comes from Mythology scholar Joseph Campbell’s writing about the sound Om, a sacred sound and mantra in Hinduism and Buddhism. Campbell said:
Om is a word that represents to our ears the sound of the energy of the universe of which all things are manifested.
It is written AUM–start in the back of the mouth – A – and then U – you fill the mouth and M closes at the mouth. And you pronounce it properly all vowel sounds are in that pronunciation. Constanants are regarded simply as interruptions of OM, and thus all words are fragments of OM, as all images are fragments of the form of forms. All things are just reflections and so OM is just a symbol. A symbolic sound that puts you in touch with that throbbing being that is the universe.
This is called the 4 element syllable:
A – the birth
U – the coming into being
M – the dissolution
The fourth element is the silence out of which it comes, and back into which it goes, and which underlies it.
Now my life is the A-U-M but there is a silence that underlies it, and that is what we would call the immortal.
So there is the sound Om, and there is the silence around Om. Silence is the presence, the awareness, that lies beneath everything, that everything arises from and returns to. Sitting in silence, whether by ourselves or with others, without letting our discomfort push us to fill the silence with random noise, without feeling like the silence is wrong somehow, can make space for truly amazing things to arise.