Sunday, August 14, 2011

Radio Silence

I was at a retreat this weekend. I couldn't even begin to summarize any of the seminars, I can only write of Stacey Li's surprise...

...It was time to celebrate "the miracle and magic of our spirit." Time for us at our weekly public speaking club, Miracles, to pool our money and take off for a weekend retreat. Instead of our usual little speeches we would have ample time to put on seminars and workshops for each other. We could unleash our inner teacher... Going up the open Queen Elizabeth II highway past cattle and silos, then along a couple of range roads past forests and fields, we at last arrived at a place formerly called River Island, now called Talking Trees.

We car pooled. No trunk space, this time, for bringing the karaoke machine. People's gear included a Tibetan singing bowl, chimes, yoga mats and meditation CDs. For electricity there was a generator by night and solar panels by day. No running water in the cabins. No showers. Nice outhouses...We had a wonderful time.

Next door, in "big sky" Montana, they only introduced highway speed limits about ten years ago. Here on the great plains we like to race along. I have heard that in big cities you may drive for a hour in slow crowded traffic. Out here we wizz north at 110 kilometers per hour... for an hour and half to get to our retreat on the Red Deer river.

Stacey Li came along Saturday morning, driving alone. Here is the thing: She used to live in Victoria near someone famous, Ekhart Tolle. He had advised her to enjoy the driving without having other things to distract her... (My friend John Duban said that some people remove themselves with a wall of sound.) ...So Stacey tried driving for a little while under radio silence. No ipod. No CDs. Nothing but her gently humming engine and tires. In fact, to her surprise, she ended up driving the entire way there without electronic noise. And she loved it! She told us she "noticed so much more." She felt more connected, more mindful of the farms and fields and undulating land. For her the retreat started at the city limits.

I believed her. Partly because we had car pooled up there without the stereo on. And mostly because I too have felt serenity. Here in the city I usually arrive home with my radio on normal/loud. But as I park I dial the volume way down; if the power switch is separate from volume I gladly kill it. Next morning, when I fire up the ignition, I resist the crutch of automatically reaching for that power switch. With my old rattletrap car I had desperately needed a daily radio silence in order to stay acquainted with my car's many noises.

These days I need daily silence to stay acquainted with... something deep. As John might say, "In the silence is the All." Many times I'd commute almost to work before wondering, "So, what's the weather for today—hey, I've had the radio off all this time." So I'd flick on the radio but then I'd arrive at work before the forecast could come on. To me this sudden "hey—" was queer but if I tried to share my amusement then I'd see furrowed brows. It bothered people.

So I guess most folks are driving with crutches... while people like Stacey have found freedom.

Sean Crawford

Southern Alberta,

Spring 2008

~I wouldn't do justice, in this short essay, if I tried to explain the seminars. Trying to summarize a good seminar is as silly as trying to condense a classic essay or stage play. ...Hearing how people in cyber space believe in having short attention spans just makes me hiss like Gollum!...

~Princeton Lau, a computer guy, e-mails me that he too drives without the radio on, both in the city and on the highway up to Edmonton; he thanked me for putting it in words.

~If I feel hollow after I turn off the radio (or after any activity) then I know my true motivation had not been music but something else, probably avoidance.

~After talking to a couple of people I think I should say that in my high school a girl and I were each living alone. We each flipped on the radio as soon as we entered our empty abode. Had we been drivers then of course we would have used our car radio a lot.

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